Book VII

Galba⁠—Otho⁠—Vitellius

Galba

  1. The race of the Caesars ended with Nero.728 That this would be so was shown by many portents and especially by two very significant ones. Years before, as Livia was returning to her estate near Veii, immediately after her marriage with Augustus, an eagle which flew by dropped into her lap a white hen, holding in its beak a sprig of laurel, just as the eagle had carried it off. Livia resolved to rear the fowl and plant the sprig, whereupon such a great brood of chickens was hatched that to this day the villa is called Ad Gallinas,729 and such a grove of laurel sprang up, that the Caesars gathered their laurels from it when they were going to celebrate triumphs. Moreover it was the habit of those who triumphed to plant other branches730 at once in that same place, and it was observed that just before the death of each of them the tree which he had planted withered. Now in Nero’s last year the whole grove died from the root up, as well as all the hens. Furthermore, when shortly afterwards the temple of the Caesars731 was struck by lightning, the heads fell from all the statues at the same time, and his sceptre, too, was dashed from the hand of Augustus.

  2. Nero was succeeded by Galba, who was related in no degree to the house of the Caesars, although unquestionably of noble origin and of an old and powerful family; for he always added to the inscriptions on his statues that he was the great-grandson of Quintus Catulus Capitolinus,732 and when he became emperor he even displayed a family tree in his hall in which he carried back his ancestry on his father’s side to Jupiter and on his mother’s to Pasiphae, the wife of Minos.

  3. It would be a long story to give in detail his illustrious ancestors and the honorary inscriptions of the entire race, but I shall give a brief account of his immediate family.733 It is uncertain why the first of the Sulpicii who bore the surname Galba assumed the name, and whence it was derived. Some think that it was because after having for a long time unsuccessfully besieged a town in Spain, he at last set fire to it by torches smeared with galbanum;734 others because during a long illness he made constant use of galbeum, that is to say of remedies wrapped in wool; still others, because he was a very fat man, such as the Gauls term galba, or because he was, on the contrary, as slender as the insects called galbae, which breed in oak trees.

    The family acquired distinction from Servius Galba, who became consul and was decidedly the most eloquent speaker of his time. This man, they say, was the cause of the war with Viriathus, because while governing Spain as propraetor, he treacherously massacred thirty thousand of the Lusitanians. His grandson had been one of Caesar’s lieutenants in Gaul, but angered because his commander caused his defeat for the consulship, he joined the conspiracy with Brutus and Cassius, and was consequently condemned to death by the Pedian law.735 From him were descended the grandfather and the father of the emperor Galba. The former, who was more eminent for his learning than for his rank⁠—for he did not advance beyond the grade of praetor⁠—published a voluminous and painstaking history. The father attained the consulship, and although he was short of stature and even hunchbacked, besides being only an indifferent speaker, was an industrious pleader at the bar. He married Mummia Achaica, the granddaughter of Catulus and great-granddaughter of Lucius Mummius who destroyed Corinth; and later Livia Ocellina, a very rich and beautiful woman, who however is thought to have sought marriage with him because of his high rank, and the more eagerly when, in response to her frequent advances, he took off his robe in private and showed her his deformity, so as not to seem to deceive her by concealing it. By Achaica he had two sons, Gaius and Servius. Gaius, who was the elder, left Rome after squandering the greater part of his estate, and committed suicide because Tiberius would not allow him to take part in the allotment of the provinces in his year.736

  4. The emperor Servius Galba was born in the consulship of Marcus Valerius Messala and Gnaeus Lentulus, on the ninth day before the Kalends of January, in a country house situated on a hill near Tarracina, on the left as you go towards Fundi. Adopted by his stepmother Livia, he took her name and the surname Ocella, and also changed his forename; for he used Lucius, instead of Servius, from that time until he became emperor. It is well known that when he was still a boy and called to pay his respects to Augustus with others of his age, the emperor pinched his cheek and said in Greek: “Thou too, child, wilt have a nibble at this power of mine.” Tiberius too, when he heard that Galba was destined to be emperor, but in his old age, said: “Well, let him live then, since that does not concern me.” Again, when Galba’s grandfather was busy with a sacrifice for a stroke of lightning,737 and an eagle snatched the intestines from his hand and carried them to an oak full of acorns, the prediction was made that the highest dignity would come to the family, but late; whereupon he said with a laugh: “Very likely, when a mule has a foal.”738 Afterwards when Galba was beginning his revolt, nothing gave him so much encouragement as the foaling of a mule, and while the rest were horrified and looked on it as an unfavourable omen, he alone regarded it as most propitious, remembering the sacrifice and his grandfather’s saying.

    When he assumed the gown of manhood, he dreamt that Fortune said that she was tired of standing before his door, and that unless she were quickly admitted, she would fall a prey to the first comer. When he awoke, opening the door of the hall, he found close by the threshold a bronze statue of Fortune more than a cubit high. This he carried in his arms to Tusculum, where he usually spent the summer, and consecrated it in a room of his house; and from that time on he honoured it with monthly sacrifices and a yearly vigil.

    Even before he reached middle life, he persisted in keeping up an old and forgotten custom of his country, which survived only in his own household, of having his freedmen and slaves appear before him twice a day in a body, greeting him in the morning and bidding him farewell at evening, one by one.

  5. Among other liberal studies he applied himself to the law. He also assumed a husband’s duties,739 but after losing his wife Lepida and two sons he had by her, he remained a widower. And he could not be tempted afterwards by any match, not even with Agrippina, who no sooner lost Domitius by death than she set her cap for Galba so obviously, even before the death of his wife, that Lepida’s mother scolded her roundly before a company of matrons and went so far as to slap her.

    He showed marked respect to Livia Augusta, to whose favour he owed great influence during her lifetime and by whose last will he almost became a rich man; for he had the largest bequest among her legatees, one of fifty million sesterces. But because the sum was designated in figures and not written out in words, Tiberius, who was her heir, reduced the bequest to five hundred thousand, and Galba never received even that amount.

  6. He began his career of office before the legal age, and in celebrating the games of the Floralia in his praetorship he gave a new kind of exhibition, namely of elephants walking the rope.740 Then he governed the province of Aquitania for nearly a year and soon afterwards held a regular consulship741 for six months; and it chanced that in this office he succeeded Lucius742 Domitius, the father of Nero, and was succeeded by Salvius Otho, the father of the emperor Otho, a kind of omen of what happened later, when he became emperor between the reigns of the sons of these two men.

    Appointed governor of Upper Germany by Gaius Caesar in room of Gaetulicus, the day after he appeared before the legions he put a stop to their applause at a festival which chanced to fall at that time, by issuing a written order to keep their hands under their cloaks; and immediately this verse was bandied about the camp:

    “Soldier, learn to play the soldier; ’tis Galba, not Gaetulicus.”

    With equal strictness he put a stop to the requests for furloughs. He got both the veterans and the new recruits into condition by plenty of hard work, speedily checked the barbarians, who had already made inroads even into Gaul, and when Gaius arrived,743 Galba and his army made such a good impression, that out of the great body of troops assembled from all the provinces none received greater commendation or richer rewards. Galba particularly distinguished himself, while directing the military manoeuvres shield in hand, by actually running for twenty miles close beside the emperor’s chariot.744

  7. When the murder of Gaius was announced, although many urged Galba to take advantage of the opportunity, he preferred quiet. Hence he was in high favour with Claudius, became one of his staff of intimate friends, and was treated with such consideration that the departure of the expedition to Britain was put off because Galba was taken with a sudden illness, of no great severity. He governed Africa for two years with the rank of proconsul, being specially chosen745 to restore order in the province, which was disturbed both by internal strife and by a revolt of the barbarians. And he was successful, owing to his insistence on strict discipline and his observance of justice even in trifling matters. When provisions were very scarce during a foray and a soldier was accused of having sold for a hundred denarii a peck746 of wheat which was left from his rations, Galba gave orders that when the man began to lack food, he should receive aid from no one; and he starved to death. On another occasion when he was holding court and the question of the ownership of a beast of burden was laid before him, as the evidence on both sides was slight and the witnesses unreliable, so that it was difficult to get at the truth, he ruled that the beast should be led with its head muffled up to the pool where it was usually watered, that it should then be unmuffled, and should belong to the man to whom it returned of its own accord after drinking.

  8. His services in Africa at that time, and previously in Germany, were recognised by the triumphal regalia and three priesthoods, for he was chosen a member of the Fifteen,747 of the brotherhood of Titius,748 and of the priests of Augustus.749 After that he lived for the most part in retirement until about the middle of Nero’s reign, never going out even for recreation without taking a million sesterces in gold with him in a second carriage;750 until at last, while he was staying in the town of Fundi, Hispania Tarraconensis was offered him. And it fell out that as he was offering sacrifice in a public temple after his arrival in the province, the hair of a young attendant who was carrying an incense-box suddenly turned white all over his head, and there were some who did not hesitate to interpret this as a sign of a change of rulers and of the succession of an old man to a young one; that is to say, of Galba to Nero. Not long after this lightning struck a lake of Cantabria and twelve axes were found there, an unmistakable token of supreme power.

  9. For eight years he governed the province in a variable and inconsistent manner. At first he was vigorous and energetic and even over severe in punishing offences; for he cut off the hands of a moneylender who carried on his business dishonestly and nailed them to his counter; crucified a man for poisoning his ward, whose property he was to inherit in case of his death; and when the man invoked the law and declared that he was a Roman citizen, Galba, pretending to lighten his punishment by some consolation and honour, ordered that a cross much higher than the rest and painted white be set up, and the man transferred to it. But he gradually changed to sloth and inaction, not to give Nero any cause for jealousy, and as he used to say himself, because no one could be forced to render an account for doing nothing.

    As he was holding the assizes at New Carthage, he learned of the rebellion of the Gallic provinces through an urgent appeal for help from the governor of Aquitania; then came letters from Vindex, calling upon him to make himself the liberator and leader of mankind. So without much hesitation he accepted the proposal, led by fear as well as by hope. For he had intercepted despatches ordering his own death, which had been secretly sent by Nero to his agents.751 He was encouraged too, in addition to most favourable auspices and omens, by the prediction of a young girl of high birth, and the more so because the priest of Jupiter at Clunia, directed by a dream, had found in the inner shrine of his temple the very same prediction, likewise spoken by an inspired girl two hundred years before. And the purport of the verses752 was that one day there would come forth from Spain the ruler and lord of the world.

  10. Accordingly, pretending that he was going to attend to the manumitting of slaves, he mounted the tribunal, on the front of which he had set up as many images as he could find of those who had been condemned and put to death by Nero; and having by his side a boy of noble family, whom he had summoned for that very purpose from his place of exile hard by in the Balearic Isles, he deplored the state of the times; being thereupon hailed as emperor, he declared that he was their governor, representing the senate and people of Rome.753 Then proclaiming a holiday, he enrolled from the people of the province legions and auxiliaries in addition to his former force of one legion, two divisions of cavalry, and three cohorts. But from the oldest and most experienced of the nobles he chose a kind of senate, to whom he might refer matters of special importance whenever it was necessary. He also chose young men of the order of knights, who were to have the title of volunteers754 and keep guard before his bedchamber in place of the regular soldiers, without losing their right to wear the gold ring.755 He also sent proclamations broadcast throughout the province, urging all men individually and collectively to join the revolution and aid the common cause in every possible way.

    At about this same time, during the fortification of a town which he had chosen as the seat of war, a ring of ancient workmanship was found, containing a precious stone engraved with a Victory and a trophy. Immediately afterwards a ship from Alexandria loaded with arms arrived at Dertosa without a pilot, without a single sailor or passenger, removing all doubt in anyone’s mind that the war was just and holy and undertaken with the approval of the gods. Then suddenly and unexpectedly the whole plan was almost brought to naught. One of the two divisions of cavalry,756 repenting of its change of allegiance, attempted to desert Galba as he was approaching his camp and was with difficulty prevented. Some slaves too, whom one of Nero’s freedmen had given Galba with treachery in view, all but slew him as he was going to the bath through a narrow passageway. In fact they would have succeeded, had they not conjured one another not to miss the opportunity and so been questioned as to what the opportunity was to which they referred; for when they were put to the torture, a confession was wrung from them.

  11. To these great perils was added the death of Vindex, by which he was especially panic-stricken and came near taking his own life, in the belief that all was lost. But when some messengers came from the city, reporting that Nero was dead and that all the people had sworn allegiance to him, he laid aside the title of governor and assumed that of Caesar.757 He then began his march to Rome in a general’s cloak with a dagger hanging from his neck in front of his breast; and he did not resume the toga until he had overthrown those who were plotting against him, Nymphidius Sabinus, prefect of the praetorian guard at Rome, in Germany and Africa the governors Fonteius Capito and Clodius Macer.

  12. His double reputation for cruelty and avarice had gone before him; men said that he had punished the cities of the Spanish and Gallic provinces which had hesitated about taking sides with him by heavier taxes and some even by the razing of their walls, putting to death the governors and imperial deputies758 along with their wives and children. Further, that he had melted down a golden crown of fifteen pounds weight, which the people of Tarraco had taken from their ancient temple of Jupiter and presented to him, with orders that the three ounces which were found lacking be exacted from them. This reputation was confirmed and even augmented immediately on his arrival in the city. For having compelled some marines whom Nero had made regular soldiers to return to their former position as rowers, upon their refusing and obstinately demanding an eagle and standards, he not only dispersed them by a cavalry charge, but even decimated759 them. He also disbanded a cohort of Germans, whom the previous Caesars had made their bodyguard760 and had found absolutely faithful in many emergencies, and sent them back to their native country without any rewards, alleging that they were more favourably inclined towards Gnaeus Dolabella, near whose gardens they had their camp. The following tales too were told in mockery of him, whether truly or falsely:761 that when an unusually elegant dinner was set before him, he groaned aloud; that when his duly appointed steward presented his expense account, he handed him a dish of beans in return for his industry and carefulness; and that when the flute player Canus greatly pleased him, he presented him with five denarii, which he took from his own purse with his own hand.762

  13. Accordingly his coming was not so welcome as it might have been, and this was apparent at the first performance in the theatre; for when the actors of an Atellan farce began the familiar lines:

    “Here comes Onesimus from his farm”763

    all the spectators at once finished the song in chorus and repeated it several times with appropriate gestures, beginning with that verse.

  14. Thus his popularity and prestige were greater when he won, than while he ruled the empire,764 though he gave many proofs of being an excellent prince; but he was by no means so much loved for those qualities as he was hated for his acts of the opposite character.

    He was wholly under the control of three men, who were commonly known as his tutors because they lived with him in the palace and never left his side. They were Titus Vinius, one of his generals in Spain, a man of unbounded covetousness; Cornelius Laco, advanced from the position of judge’s assistant to that of prefect of the Guard and intolerably haughty and indolent; and his own freedman Icelus, who had only just before received the honour of the gold ring765 and the surname of Marcianus, yet already aspired to the highest office open to the equestrian order.766 To these brigands, each with his different vice, he so entrusted and handed himself over as their tool, that his conduct was far from consistent; for now he was more exacting and niggardly, and now more extravagant and reckless than became a prince chosen by the people and of his time of life.

    He condemned to death diverse distinguished men of both orders on trivial suspicions without a trial. He rarely granted Roman citizenship, and the privileges of threefold paternity767 to hardly one or two, and even to those only for a fixed and limited time. When the jurors petitioned that a sixth division be added to their number, he not only refused, but even deprived them of the privilege granted by Claudius,768 of not being summoned for court duty in winter and at the beginning of the year.

  15. It was thought too that he intended to limit the offices open to senators and knights to a period of two years, and to give them only to such as did not wish them and declined them.769 He had all the grants of Nero revoked, allowing only a tenth part to be retained; and he exacted repayment with the help of fifty Roman knights, stipulating that even if the actors and athletes had sold anything that had formerly been given them, it should be taken away from the purchases, in case the recipient had spent the money and could not repay it. On the other hand, there was nothing that he did not allow his friends and freedmen to sell at a price or bestow as a favour, taxes and freedom from taxation, the punishment of the guiltless and impunity for the guilty. Nay more, when the Roman people called for the punishment of Halotus and Tigellinus, the most utterly abandoned of all Nero’s creatures, not content with saving their lives, he honoured Halotus with a very important stewardship and in the case of Tigellinus even issued an edict rebuking the people for their cruelty.

  16. Having thus incurred the hatred of almost all men of every class, he was especially detested by the soldiers; for although their officers770 had promised them a larger gift than common when they swore allegiance to Galba in his absence, so far from keeping the promise, he declared more than once that it was his habit to levy troops, not buy them; and on this account he embittered the soldiers all over the empire. The praetorians he filled besides with both fear and indignation by discharging many of them from time to time as under suspicion of being partisans of Nymphidius.771 But loudest of all was the grumbling of the army in Upper Germany, because it was defrauded of the reward for its services against the Gauls and Vindex. Hence they were the first to venture on mutiny, refusing on the Kalends of January to swear allegiance to anyone save the senate, and at once resolving to send a deputation to the praetorians with the following message: that the emperor created in Spain did not suit them and the Guard must choose one who would be acceptable to all the armies.

  17. When this was reported to Galba, thinking that it was not so much his age as his lack of children that was criticised, he picked out Piso Frugi Licinianus from the midst of the throng at one of his morning receptions, a young man of noble birth and high character, who had long been one of his special favourites and always named in his will as heir to his property and his name. Calling him son, he led him to the praetorian camp and adopted him before the assembled soldiers. But even then he made no mention of largess, thus making it easier for Marcus Salvius Otho to accomplish his purpose within six days after the adoption.

  18. Many prodigies in rapid succession from the very beginning of his reign had foretold Galba’s end exactly as it happened. When victims were being slain to right and left all along his route in every town,772 an ox, maddened by the stroke of an axe, broke its bonds and charged the emperor’s chariot, and as it raised its feet, deluged him with blood. And as Galba dismounted, one of his guards, pushed forward by the crowd, almost wounded him with his lance. Again, as he entered the city, and later the Palace, he was met by a shock of earthquake and a sound like the lowing of kine. There followed even clearer signs. He had set apart from all the treasure a necklace fashioned of pearls and precious stones, for the adornment of his image of Fortune at Tusculum.773 This on a sudden impulse he consecrated to the Capitoline Venus, thinking it worthy of a more august position. The next night Fortune appeared to him in his dreams, complaining of being robbed of the gift intended for her and threatening in her turn to take away what she had bestowed. When Galba hastened in terror to Tusculum at daybreak, to offer expiatory sacrifices because of the dream, and sent on men to make preparations for the ceremony, he found on the altar nothing but warm ashes and beside it an old man dressed in black, holding the incense in a glass dish and the wine in an earthen cup.774 It was also remarked that as he was sacrificing on the Kalends of January, the garland fell from his head, and that as he took the auspices, the sacred chickens flew away. As he was on the point of addressing the soldiers on the day of the adoption,775 his camp chair, through the forgetfulness of his attendants, was not placed on the tribunal, as is customary, and in the senate his curule chair was set wrong side foremost.

  19. As he was offering sacrifice on the morning before he was killed, a soothsayer warned him again and again to look out for danger, since assassins were not far off.

    Not long after this he learned that Otho held possession of the Camp,776 and when several advised him to proceed thither as soon as possible⁠—for they said that he could win the day by his presence and prestige⁠—he decided to do no more than hold his present position and strengthen it by getting together a guard of the legionaries, who were encamped in many different quarters of the city. He did however put on a linen cuirass, though he openly declared that it would afford little protection against so many swords. But he was lured out by false reports, circulated by the conspirators to induce him to appear in public; for when a few rashly assured him that the trouble was over, that the rebels had been overthrown, and that the rest were coming in a body to offer their congratulations, ready to submit to all his orders, he went out to meet them with so much confidence, that when one of the soldiers boasted that he had slain Otho, he asked him, “On whose authority?” and then he went on as far as the Forum. There the horsemen who had been bidden to slay him, spurring their horses through the streets and dispersing the crowd of civilians, caught sight of him from a distance and halted for a moment. Then they rushed upon him again and butchered him, abandoned by his followers.

  20. Some say that at the beginning of the disturbance he cried out, “What mean you, fellow soldiers? I am yours and you are mine,” and that he even promised them largess.777 But the more general account is, that he offered them his neck without resistance, urging them to do their duty778 and strike, since it was their will. It might seem very surprising that none of those present tried to lend aid to their emperor, and that all who were sent for treated the summons with contempt except a company of German troops. These, because of his recent kindness in showing them great indulgence when they were weakened by illness, flew to his help, but through their unfamiliarity with the city took a roundabout way and arrived too late.

    He was killed beside the Lake of Curtius779 and was left lying just as he was, until a common soldier, returning from a distribution of grain, threw down his load and cut off the head. Then, since there was no hair by which to grasp it, he put it under his robe, but later thrust his thumb into the mouth and so carried it to Otho. He handed it over to his servants and camp-followers, who set it on a lance and paraded it about the camp with jeers, crying out from time to time, “Galba, thou Cupid, exult in thy vigour!” The special reason for this saucy jest was, that the report had gone abroad a few days before, that when someone had congratulated him on still looking young and vigorous, he replied:

    “As yet my strength is unimpaired.”780

    From these it was bought by a freedman of Patrobius Neronianus for a hundred pieces of gold and thrown aside in the place where his patron had been executed by Galba’s order. At last, however, his steward Argivus consigned it to the tomb with the rest of the body in Galba’s private gardens on the Aurelian Road.

  21. He was of average height, very bald, with blue eyes and a hooked nose. His hands and feet were so distorted by gout that he could not endure a shoe for long, unroll a book, or even hold one. The flesh on his right side too had grown out and hung down to such an extent, that it could with difficulty be held in place by a bandage.

  22. It is said that he was a heavy eater and in winter time was in the habit of taking food even before daylight, while at dinner he helped himself so lavishly that he would have the leavings which remained in a heap before him passed along and distributed among the attendants who waited on him.781 He was more inclined to unnatural desire, and in gratifying it preferred full-grown, strong men. They say that when Icelus, one of his old-time favourites, brought him news in Spain of Nero’s death, he not only received him openly with the fondest kisses, but begged him to prepare himself with delay and took him one side.

  23. He met his end in the seventy-third year of his age and the seventh month of his reign. The senate, as soon as it was allowed to do so, voted him a statue standing upon a column adorned with the beaks of ships, in the part of the Forum where he was slain; but Vespasian annulled this decree, believing that Galba had sent assassins from Spain to Judaea, to take his life.

Otho

  1. The ancestors of Otho came from an old and illustrious family in the town of Ferentium and were descended from the princes of Etruria.782 His grandfather Marcus Salvius Otho, whose father was a Roman knight but whose mother was of lowly origin and perhaps not even freeborn, became a senator through the influence of Livia Augusta, in whose house he was reared; but did not advance beyond the grade of praetor.

    His father Lucius Otho was of a distinguished family on his mother’s side, with many powerful connections, and was so beloved by Tiberius and so like him in appearance, that he was believed by many to be the emperor’s son. In the regular offices at Rome, the proconsulate of Africa, and several special military commands he conducted himself with extreme severity. In Illyricum he even had the courage to punish some soldiers with death, because in the rebellion of Camillus,783 repenting of their defection, they had killed their officers on the ground that they were the ringleaders in the revolt against Claudius; and they were executed in his presence before his headquarters, although he knew that they had been promoted to higher positions by Claudius because of that very act. By this deed, while he increased his reputation, he lost favour at court; but he speedily regained it by detecting the treachery of a Roman knight, whose slaves betrayed their master’s design of killing the emperor.784 For in consequence of this, the senate conferred a very unusual honour on him by setting up his statue in the Palace; and Claudius also enrolled him among the patricians, and after praising him in the highest terms, added these words: “a man of greater loyalty than I can even pray for in my own children.” By Albia Terentia, a woman of an illustrious line, he had two sons, Lucius Titianus and a younger called Marcus, who had the same surname as himself; also a daughter, whom he betrothed to Drusus, son of Germanicus, almost before she was of marriageable age.

  2. The emperor Otho was born on the fourth day before the Kalends of May in the consulate of Camillus Arruntius and Domitius Ahenobarbus. From earliest youth he was so extravagant and wild that his father often flogged him; and they say that he used to rove about at night and lay hands on anyone whom he met who was feeble or drunk and toss him in a blanket.785

    After his father’s death he pretended love for an influential freedwoman of the court, although she was an old woman and almost decrepit, that he might more effectually win her favour. Having through her wormed his way into Nero’s good graces, he easily held the first place among the emperor’s friends because of the similarity of their characters; but according to some, also through immoral relations. At any rate his influence was such, that when he had bargained for a huge sum of money to procure the pardon of an ex-consul who had been condemned for extortion, he had no hesitation in bringing him into the senate to give thanks, before he had fully secured his restoration.786

  3. He was privy to all the emperor’s plans and secrets, and on the day which Nero had chosen for the murder of his mother he gave both of them a most elaborate banquet,787 in order to avert suspicion. Also when Poppaea Sabina, who up to that time had been Nero’s mistress, was separated from her husband and turned over for the time being to Otho, he pretended marriage with her;788 but not content with seducing her he became so devoted that he could not endure the thought of having Nero even as a rival. At all events it is believed that he not only would not admit those whom Nero sent to fetch her, but that on one occasion he even shut out the emperor himself, who stood before his door, vainly mingling threats and entreaties and demanding the return of his trust. Therefore Nero annulled the marriage789 and under colour of an appointment as governor banished Otho to Lusitania, contenting himself with this through fear that by inflicting a severer punishment he would make the whole farce public; but even as it was, it was published abroad in this couplet:

    “Why, do you ask, in feigned honour does Otho in banishment languish?
    With his own wedded wife he had begun an intrigue.”

    With the rank of quaestor Otho governed the province for ten years with remarkable moderation and integrity.

  4. When at last an opportunity for revenge was given him, Otho was the first to espouse Galba’s cause, at the same time conceiving on his own account high hopes of imperial power, because of the state of the times, but still more because of a declaration of the astrologer Seleucus.790 For he had not only promised Otho some time before that he would survive Nero, but had at this time unexpectedly appeared unsought and made the further promise, that he would soon become emperor as well.

    Accordingly Otho let slip no opportunity for flattery or attention to anyone. Whenever he entertained the prince at dinner, he gave a gold piece to each man of the cohort on guard, and put all the soldiers under obligation in one form or another. Chosen arbiter by a man who was at law with his neighbour about a part of his estate, he bought the whole property and presented it to him. As a result there was hardly anyone who did not both think and openly declare that he alone was worthy to succeed to the empire.

  5. Now he had hoped to be adopted by Galba, and looked forward to it from day to day. But when Piso was preferred and he at last lost that hope, he resorted to force, spurred on not merely by feelings of resentment, but also by the greatness of his debts. For he flatly declared that he could not keep on his feet unless he became emperor, and that it made no difference whether he fell at the hands of the enemy in battle or at those of his creditors in the Forum.

    He had extorted a million sesterces from one of the emperor’s slaves a few days before for getting him a stewardship. This was the entire capital for his great undertaking. At first the enterprise was entrusted to five of his bodyguard, then to ten others, two being chosen by each of the first five; to all of them ten thousand sesterces were paid at once and they were promised fifty thousand more. Through these others were won over, but not so very many, since he had full confidence that more would join him when the business was afoot.

  6. He had been inclined to seize the Camp immediately after the adoption, and set upon Galba as he was dining in the Palace, but had been prevented by consideration for the cohort which was on guard at the time, and a reluctance to increase its ill repute; for it was while that same cohort was at its post that both Gaius had been slain and Nero had been forsaken. The intervening time791 was lost owing to bad omens and the warnings of Seleucus.

    Accordingly, when the day was set, after admonishing his confederates to await him in the Forum at the golden milepost792 hard by the temple of Saturn, he called upon Galba in the morning and was welcomed as usual with a kiss. He also attended the emperor as he was offering sacrifice, and heard the predictions of the soothsayer. Then a freedman announced that the architects had come, which was the signal agreed on, and going off as if to inspect a house which was for sale, he rushed from the Palace by a back door and hastened to the appointed place. Others say that he feigned an attack of fever and asked those who stood near him to give that excuse, in case he should be missed. Then hurriedly entering a closed sedan, such as women use, he hurried to the camp, but got out when the bearers’ strength flagged, and started to run. His shoe came untied and he stopped, whereupon without delay he was at once taken up on the shoulders of his companions and hailed as emperor. In this way he arrived at headquarters, amid acclamations and drawn swords, while everyone whom he met fell in, just as though he were an accomplice and a participator in the plot. He then sent emissaries to kill Galba and Piso, and made no further promises in the assembly to win the loyalty of the soldiers than to declare that he would have that⁠—and only that⁠—which they should leave to him.

  7. Next, as the day was drawing to its close, he entered the senate and after giving a brief account of himself, alleging that he had been carried off in the streets and forced to undertake the rule, which he would exercise in accordance with the general will, he went to the Palace. When in the midst of the other adulations of those who congratulated and flattered him, he was hailed by the common herd as Nero, he made no sign of dissent; on the contrary, according to some writers, he even made use of that surname in his commissions and his first letters to some of the governors of the provinces. Certain it is that he suffered Nero’s busts and statues to be set up again, and reinstated his procurators and freedmen in their former posts, while the first grant that he signed as emperor was one of fifty million sesterces for finishing the Golden House.

    It is said that he had a fearful dream that night, uttered loud groans, and was found by those who ran to his aid lying on the ground beside his couch; that he tried by every kind of expiatory rite to propitiate the shade of Galba, by whom he dreamt that he was ousted and thrown out; and that next day, as he was taking the auspices, a great storm arose and he had a bad fall, whereat he muttered from time to time:

    “With long pipes what concern have I?”793

  8. Now at about this same time the armies in Germany swore allegiance to Vitellius. When Otho learned of this, he persuaded the senate to send a deputation, to say that an emperor had already been chosen and to counsel peace and harmony; but in spite of this he offered Vitellius by messengers and letters a share in the imperial dignity and proposed to become his son-in-law. But when it became clear that war was inevitable, and the generals and troops which Vitellius had sent in advance were already drawing near, he was given a proof of the affection and loyalty of the praetorians towards himself which almost resulted in the destruction of the senate. It had been resolved that some arms should be removed and carried back794 on shipboard by the marines; but as these were being taken out795 in the Camp towards nightfall, some suspected treachery and started a riot; then on a sudden all the soldiers hastened to the Palace without any particular leader, demanding the death of the senators. After putting to flight some of the tribunes who attempted to stop them, and killing others, just as they were, all bloodstained, they burst right into the dining-room, demanding to know where the emperor was; and they could not be quieted until they had seen him.796

    He began his expedition with energy and in fact too hastily, without any regard even for the omens, and in spite of the fact that the sacred shields had been taken out,797 but not yet put back, which for ages has been considered unlucky; on the very day, too, when the worshippers of the Mother of the Gods798 begin their wailing and lamentation, and also with most unfavourable auspices. For having offered up a victim to father Dis, he had good omens, whereas in such a sacrifice adverse indications are more favourable; and when he first left the city, he was delayed by floods of the Tiber, while at the twentieth milestone he found the road blocked by fallen buildings.

  9. With like rashness, although no one doubted that the proper course was to protract the war, since the enemy were hard pressed by hunger and by the narrowness of their quarters, he decided to fight a decisive battle as soon as possible, either because he could not endure the continued worry and hoped that the war could be ended before the arrival of Vitellius, or from inability to resist the impetuosity of his soldiers, who clamoured for the fight. He himself did not take part in any of the battles, but remained behind at Brixellum.

    He was victorious in three contests, but they were of little moment: in the Alps, near Placentia, and “at Castor’s,”799 as the place is called. In the final and decisive struggle at Betriacum he was defeated, but through treachery. For hope of a conference was offered, and when his soldiers were led out in the belief that they were to discuss terms of peace, a battle was forced upon them unexpectedly, just as they were exchanging greetings with the foe. After the defeat, Otho at once resolved to take his own life, rather from a feeling of shame, as many have thought with good reason, and an unwillingness to persist in a struggle for imperial power at the expense of such danger to life and property, than from any despair of success or distrust of his troops; for even then he had a fresh and strong force which he had held in reserve for a second attempt, while others were on their way from Dalmatia, Pannonia, and Moesia. Even the defeated troops were not so crushed as not to undergo any danger, and even without support undertake to avenge their disgrace.

  10. My father Suetonius Laetus took part in that war, as a tribune of the equestrian order in the Thirteenth legion. He used often to declare afterwards that Otho, even when he was a private citizen, so loathed civil strife, that at the mere mention of the fate of Brutus and Cassius at a banquet he shuddered; that he would not have engaged with Galba, if he had not felt confident that the affair could be settled peacefully; further, that he was led to hold his life cheap at that time by the example of a common soldier. This man on bringing news of the defeat of the army was believed by no one, but was charged by the soldiers now with falsehood and now with cowardice, and accused of running away; whereupon he fell on his sword at the emperor’s feet. My father used to say that at this sight Otho cried out that he would no longer endanger the lives of such brave men, who had deserved so well.

    Having therefore advised his brother, his nephew, and his friends one by one to look out each for his own safety as best they could, he embraced and kissed them all and sent them off. Then going to a retired place he wrote two notes, one of consolation to his sister, and one to Nero’s widow Messalina, whom he had intended to marry, commending to her his corpse and his memory. Then he burned all his letters, to prevent them from bringing danger or harm to anyone at the hands of the victor. He also distributed what money he had with him among his servants.

  11. When he had thus made his preparations and was now resolved upon death, learning from a disturbance which meantime arose that those who were beginning to depart and leave the camp were being seized and detained as deserters, he said “Let us add this one more night to our life” (these were his very words), and he forbade the offering of violence to anyone. Leaving the door of his bedroom open until a late hour, he gave the privilege of speaking with him to all who wished to come in. After that, quenching his thirst with a draught of cold water, he caught up two daggers, and having tried the point of both of them, put one under his pillow. Then closing the doors, he slept very soundly. When he at last woke up at about daylight, he stabbed himself with a single stroke under the left breast; and now concealing the wound, and now showing it to those who rushed in at his first groan, he breathed his last and was hastily buried (for such were his orders) in the thirty-eighth year of his age and on the ninety-fifth day of his reign.

  12. Neither Otho’s person nor his bearing suggested such great courage. He is said to have been of moderate height, splayfooted and bandy-legged, but almost feminine in his care of his person. He had the hair of his body plucked out, and because of the thinness of his locks wore a wig so carefully fashioned and fitted to his head, that no one suspected it. Moreover, they say that he used to shave every day and smear his face with moist bread, beginning the practice with the appearance of the first down, so as never to have a beard; also that he used to celebrate the rites of Isis publicly in the linen garment prescribed by the cult. I am inclined to think that it was because of these habits that a death so little in harmony with his life excited the greater marvel. Many of the soldiers who were present kissed his hands and feet as he lay dead, weeping bitterly and calling him the bravest of men and an incomparable emperor, and then at once slew themselves beside his bier. Many of those who were absent too, on receiving the news attacked and killed one another from sheer grief. In short the greater part of those who had hated him most bitterly while he lived lauded him to the skies when he was dead; and it was even commonly declared that he had put an end to Galba, not so much for the sake of ruling, as of restoring the republic and liberty.

Vitellius

  1. Of the origin of the Vitellii different and widely varying accounts are given, some saying that the family was ancient and noble, others that it was new and obscure, if not of mean extraction. I should believe that these came respectively from the flatterers and detractors of the emperor, were it not for a difference of opinion about the standing of the family at a considerably earlier date. We have a book of Quintus Elogius addressed to Quintus Vitellius, quaestor of the Deified Augustus, in which it is written that the Vitellii were sprung from Faunus, king of the Aborigines, and Vitellia, who was worshipped as a goddess in many places;’ and that they ruled in all Latium. That the surviving members of the family moved from the Sabine district to Rome and were enrolled among the patricians. That traces of this stock endured long afterwards in the Vitellian Road, running from the Janiculum all the way to the sea, as well as in a colony of the same name, which in ancient days the family had asked the privilege of defending against the Aequicoli with troops raised from their own line. That when afterwards a force was sent into Apulia at the time of the Samnite war, some of the Vitellii settled at Nuceria, and that after a long time their descendants returned to the city and resumed their place in the senatorial order.

  2. On the other hand several have written that the founder of the family was a freedman, while Cassius Severus and others as well say further that he was a cobbler, and that his son, after making a considerable fortune from the sale of confiscated estates and the profession of informer, married a common strumpet, daughter of one Antiochus who kept a bakery, and became the father of a Roman knight. But this difference of opinion may be left unsettled.

    In any event Publius Vitellius of Nuceria, whether of ancient stock or of parents and forefathers in whom he could take no pride, unquestionably a Roman knight and a steward of Augustus’s property, left four sons of high rank with the same name and differing only in their forenames: Aulus, Quintus, Publius and Lucius. Aulus, who was given to luxury and especially notorious for the magnificence of his feasts, died a consul, appointed to the office with Domitius, father of the emperor Nero. Quintus lost his rank at the time when it was resolved, under the suggestion of Tiberius, to depose and get rid of undesirable senators.800 Publius, a member of Germanicus’ staff, arraigned Gnaeus Piso, the enemy and murderer of his commander, and secured his condemnation. Arrested among the accomplices of Sejanus, after holding the praetorship, and handed over to his own brother to be kept in confinement, he opened his veins with a penknife, but allowed himself to be bandaged and restored, not so much from unwillingness to die, as because of the entreaties of his friends; and he met a natural death while still in confinement. Lucius attained the consulate and then was made governor of Syria, where with supreme diplomacy having not only induced Artabanus, king of the Parthians, to hold a conference with him,801 but even to do obeisance to the standards of the legion. Later he held, with the emperor Claudius, two more regular consulships and the censorship. He also bore the charge of the empire while Claudius was away on his expedition to Britain. He was an honest and active man, but of very ill repute because of his passion for a freedwoman, which went so far that he used her spittle mixed with honey to rub on his throat and jaws as a medicine, not secretly nor seldom, but openly and every day. He had also a wonderful gift for flattery and was the first to begin to worship Gaius Caesar as a god; for on his return from Syria he did not presume to approach the emperor except with veiled head, turning himself about and then prostrating himself. To neglect no means of gaining the favour of Claudius, who was a slave to his wives and freedmen,802 he begged of Messalina as the highest possible favour that she would allow him to take off her shoes; and when he had taken off her right slipper, he constantly carried it about between his toga and his tunic, and sometimes kissed it. Narcissus also and Pallas he honoured by cherishing their golden images among his household gods. It was he who made the famous remark, “May you often do it,” when he was congratulating Claudius at the celebration of the Secular games.803

  3. He died of a paralytic stroke on the second day after he was seized, leaving two sons, begotten of Sestilia, a most worthy woman and of no mean family, and having lived to see them consuls both in the same year, and for the whole year, since the younger succeeded the elder for six months. On his decease the senate honoured him with a public funeral and with a statue on the rostra with this inscription: “Of unwavering loyalty to his emperor.”

    The emperor Aulus Vitellius, son of Lucius, was born on the eighth day before the Kalends of October, or according to some, on the seventh day before the Ides of September, in the consulship of Drusus Caesar and Norbanus Flaccus. His parents were so aghast at his horoscope as announced by the astrologers, that his father tried his utmost, while he lived, to prevent the assignment of any province to his son; and when he was sent to the legions and hailed as emperor, his mother immediately mourned over him as lost. He spent his boyhood and early youth at Capreae among the wantons of Tiberius, being branded for all time with the nickname Spintria804 and suspected of having been the cause of his father’s first advancement at the expense of his own chastity.

  4. Stained by every sort of baseness as he advanced in years, he held a prominent place at court, winning the intimacy of Gaius by his devotion to driving and of Claudius by his passion for dice. But he was still dearer to Nero, not only because of these same qualities, but because of a special service besides; for when he was presiding at the contests of the Neronia805 and Nero wished to compete among the lyre-players, but did not venture to do so although there was a general demand for him and accordingly left the theatre, Vitellius called him back, alleging that he came as an envoy from the insistent people, and thus gave Nero a chance to yield to their entreaties.

  5. Having in this way through the favour of three emperors been honoured not only with political positions but with distinguished priesthoods as well, he afterwards governed Africa as proconsul and served as curator of public works, but with varying purpose and reputation. In his province he showed exceptional integrity for two successive years, for he served as deputy to his brother, who succeeded him; but in his city offices he was said to have stolen some of the offerings and ornaments from the temples and changed others, substituting tin and brass for gold and silver.

  6. He had to wife Petronia, daughter of an ex-consul, and by her a son Petronianus, who was blind in one eye. Since this son was named as his mother’s heir on condition of being freed from his father’s authority, he manumitted him, but shortly afterwards killed him, according to the general belief, charging him besides with attempted parricide, and alleging that his guilty conscience had led him to drink the poison which he had mixed for his intended crime. Soon afterwards he married Galeria Fundana, daughter of an ex-praetor, and from her too he had a son and a daughter, but the former stammered so, that he was all but dumb and tongue-tied.

  7. Galba surprised everyone by sending him to Lower Germany. Some think that it was due to Titus Vinius, who had great influence at the time, and whose friendship Vitellius had long since won through their common support of the Blues.806 But since Galba openly declared that no men were less to be feared than those who thought of nothing but eating, and that Vitellius’s bottomless gullet might be filled from the resources of the province, it is clear to anyone that he was chosen rather through contempt than favour. It is notorious that when he was about to start, he lacked means for his travelling expenses, and that his need of funds was such, that after consigning his wife and children, whom he left in Rome, to a hired garret, he let his house for the rest of the year; and that he took a valuable pearl from his mother’s ear and pawned it, to defray the expenses of his journey. He had to resort to false accusation to get rid of the throng of creditors that lay in wait for him and tried to detain him, including the people of Sinuessa and of Formiae, whose public revenues he had embezzled; for he brought an action for damages against a freedman who was somewhat persistent in demanding what was due to him, alleging that he had been kicked by him, and would not let him off until he had squeezed him to the tune of fifty thousand sesterces.

    On his arrival the army, which was disaffected towards the emperor and inclined to mutiny, received him gladly with open arms,807 as if he had come to them as a gift from the gods; since he was the son of a man who had thrice been consul, in the prime of life, and of an easygoing and lavish disposition. This earlier good opinion Vitellius had also strengthened by recent acts, for throughout the march he kissed even the common soldiers whom he met, and at the posthouses and inns he was unusually affable to the mule drivers and travellers, asking each of them in the morning whether they had breakfasted and even showing by belching that he had done so.

  8. As soon as he had entered the camp, he granted every request that anyone made and even of his own accord freed those in disgrace from their penalties, defendants of suits from their mourning,808 and the convicted from punishment. Therefore hardly a month had passed, when the soldiers, regardless of the hour, for it was already evening, hastily took him from his bedroom, just as he was, in his common house-clothes,809 and hailed him as emperor. Then he was carried about the most populous villages, holding a drawn sword of the Deified Julius, which someone had taken from a shrine of Mars and handed him during the first congratulations. He did not return to headquarters until the dining-room caught fire from the stove and was ablaze; and then, when all were shocked and troubled at what seemed a bad omen, he said: “Be of good cheer; to us light is given;” and this was his only address to the soldiers. When he presently received the support of the army of the upper province too, which had previously transferred its allegiance for Galba to the senate, he eagerly accepted the surname of Germanicus, which was unanimously offered him, put off accepting the title of Augustus, and forever refused that of Caesar.

  9. Then hearing of the murder of Galba, he settled affairs in Germany and made two divisions of his forces, one to send on against Otho, and the other to lead in person. The former was greeted with a lucky omen at the start, for an eagle suddenly flew towards them from the right and after hovering about the standards, slowly preceded their line of march. But, on the contrary, when he himself began his advance, the equestrian statues which were being set up everywhere in his honour on a sudden all collapsed with broken legs, and the laurel crown which he had put on with due ceremony fell into a running stream. Later, as he was sitting in judgment on the tribunal at Vienna,810 a cock perched on his shoulder and then on his head.811 And the outcome corresponded with these omens; for he was not by his own efforts able to retain the power which his lieutenants secured for him.

  10. He heard of the victory at Betriacum and of the death of Otho while he was still in Gaul, and without delay by a single edict he disbanded all the praetorian cohorts, as having set a pernicious example,812 and bade them hand over their arms to their tribunes. Furthermore, he gave orders that one hundred and twenty of them should be hunted up and punished, having found petitions which they had written to Otho, asking for a reward for services rendered in connection with Galba’s murder. These acts were altogether admirable and noble, and such as to give hope that he would be a great prince, had it not been that the rest of his conduct was more in harmony with his natural disposition and his former habits of life than with imperial dignity. For when he had begun his march, he rode through the middle of the cities like a triumphing general, and on the rivers he sailed in most exquisite craft wreathed with various kinds of garlands, amid lavish entertainments, with no discipline among his household or the soldiers, making a jest of the pillage and wantonness of all his followers. For not content with the banquets which were furnished them everywhere at public expense, they set free whatever slaves they pleased, promptly paying those who remonstrated with blows and stripes, often with wounds, and sometimes with death. When he came to the plains where the battle was fought and some shuddered with horror at the mouldering corpses, he had the audacity to encourage them by the abominable saying, that the odour of a dead enemy was sweet and that of a fellow-citizen sweeter still. But nevertheless, the better to bear the awful stench, he openly drained a great draught of unmixed wine and distributed some among the troops. With equal bad taste and arrogance, gazing upon the stone inscribed to the memory of Otho, he declared that he deserved such a Mausoleum, and sent the dagger with which his rival had killed himself to the Colony of Agrippina,813 to be dedicated to Mars. He also held an all-night festival814 on the heights of the Apennines.

  11. Finally he entered the city to the sound of the trumpet, wearing a general’s mantle and a sword at his side, amid standards and banners, with his staff in military cloaks and his troops with drawn swords.

    Then showing greater and greater disregard for the laws of gods and men, he assumed the office of high priest on the day of Allia,815 held elections for ten years to come, and made himself consul for life. And to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind what model he chose for the government of the State, he made funerary offerings to Nero in the middle of the Campus Martius, attended by a great throng of the official priests; and when at the accompanying banquet a flute-player was received with applause, he openly urged him “to render something from the Master’s Book816 as well;” and when he began the songs of Nero, Vitellius was the first to applaud him and even jumped for joy.

  12. Beginning in this way, he regulated the greater part of his rule wholly according to the advice and whims of the commonest of actors and chariot-drivers, and in particular of his freedman Asiaticus. This fellow had immoral relations with Vitellius in his youth, but later grew weary of him and ran away. When Vitellius came upon him selling posca817 at Puteoli, he put him in irons, but at once freed him again and made him his favourite. His vexation was renewed by the man’s excessive insolence and thievishness, and he sold him to an itinerant keeper of gladiators. When, however, he was once reserved for the end of a gladiatorial show, Vitellius suddenly spirited him away, and finally on getting his province set him free. On the first day of his reign he presented him with the golden ring at a banquet, although in the morning, when there was a general demand that Asiaticus be given that honour, he had deprecated in the strongest terms such a blot on the equestrian order.

  13. But his besetting sins were luxury and cruelty. He divided his feasts into three, sometimes into four a day, breakfast,818 luncheon, dinner, and a drinking bout; and he was readily able to do justice to all of them through his habit of taking emetics. Moreover, he had himself invited to each of these meals by different men on the same day, and the materials for any one of them never cost less than four hundred thousand sesterces. Most notorious of all was the dinner given by his brother to celebrate the emperor’s arrival in Rome, at which two thousand of the choicest fishes and seven thousand birds are said to have been served. He himself eclipsed even this at the dedication of a platter, which on account of its enormous size he called the “Shield of Minerva, Defender of the City.”819 In this he mingled the livers of pike, the brains of pheasants and peacocks, the tongues of flamingoes and the milt of lampreys, brought by his captains and triremes from the whole empire, from Parthia to the Spanish strait.820 Being besides a man of an appetite that was not only boundless, but also regardless of time or decency, he could never refrain, even when he sacrificing or making a journey, from snatching bits of meat and cakes amid the altars, almost from the very fire, and devouring them on the spot; and in the cookshops along the road, viands smoking hot or even those left over from the day before and partly consumed.

  14. He delighted in inflicting death and torture on anyone whatsoever and for any cause whatever, putting to death several men of rank, fellow students and comrades of his, whom he had solicited to come to court by every kind of deception, all but offering them a share in the rule. This he did in various treacherous ways, even giving poison to one of them with his own hand in a glass of cold water, for which the man had called when ill of a fever. Besides he spared hardly one of the moneylenders, contractors, and tax-gatherers who had ever demanded of him the payment of a debt at Rome or of a toll on a journey. When one of these had been handed over for execution just as he was paying his morning call and at once recalled, as all were praising the emperor’s mercy, Vitellius gave orders to have him killed in his presence, saying that he wished to feast his eyes. In another case he had two sons who attempted to intercede for their father put to death with him. A Roman knight also, who cried as he was being taken off to execution, “You are my heir,” he compelled to show his will; and reading the one of the man’s freedmen was put down as joint-heir with himself, he ordered the death both of the knight and the freedman. He even killed some of the common people, merely because they had openly spoken ill of the Blue faction,821 handing that they had ventured to do this from contempt of himself and the anticipation of a change of rulers. But he was especially hostile to writers of lampoons822 and to astrologers, and whenever anyone of them was accused, he put him to death without trial, particularly incensed because after a proclamation of his in which he ordered the astrologers to leave the city and Italy before the Kalends of October, a placard was at once posted, reading: “By proclamation of the Chaldeans,823 God bless the State!824 Before the same day and date let Vitellius Germanicus have ceased to live.” Moreover, when his mother died, he was suspected of having forbidden her being given food when she was ill, because a woman of the Chatti, in whom he believed as he would in an oracle, prophesied that he would rule securely and for a long time, but only if he should survive his parent. Others say that through weariness of present evils and fear of those which threatened, she asked poison of her son, and obtained it with no great difficulty.

  15. In the eighth month of his reign the armies of the Moesian provinces and Pannonia revolted from him, and also in the provinces beyond the seas those of Judaea and Syria, the former swearing allegiance to Vespasian in his absence and the latter in his presence. Therefore, to retain the devotion and favour of the rest of the people, there was nothing that he did not lavish publicly and privately, without any limit whatever. He also held a levy in the city, promising those who volunteered not only their discharge upon his victory but also the rewards and privileges given to veterans after their regular term of service. Later, when his enemies were pressing him hard by land and sea, he opposed to them in one quarter his brother with a fleet manned by raw recruits and a band of gladiators, and in another the forces and leaders who had fought at Betriacum. And after he was everywhere either worsted or betrayed, he made a bargain with Flavius Sabinus, the brother of Vespasian, that he should have his own life and a hundred million sesterces. Thereupon he immediately declared from the steps of the Palace before his assembled soldiers, that he withdrew from the rule which had been given him against his will; but when all cried out against this, he postponed the matter, and after a night had passed, went at daybreak to the rostra in mourning garb and with many tears made the same declaration, but from a written document. When the people and soldiers again interrupted him and besought him not to lose heart, vying with one another in promising him all their efforts in his behalf, he again took courage and by a sudden onslaught drove Sabinus and the rest of the Flavians, who no longer feared an attack, into the Capitol. Then he set fire to the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus and destroyed them, viewing the battle and the fire from the house of Tiberius, where he was feasting. Not long afterwards he repented of his action and throwing the blame upon others, called an assembly and took oath, compelling the rest to do the same, that there was nothing for which he would strive more earnestly than for the public peace. Then he took a dagger from his side and offered it first to the consul, and when he refused it, to the magistrates, and then to the senators, one by one.825 When no one would take it, he went off as if he would place it in the temple of Concord; but when some cried out that he himself was Concord, he returned and declared that he would not only retain the steel but would also adopt the surname Concordia.

  16. He also persuaded the senate to send envoys with the Vestal virgins, to sue for peace or at least to gain time for conference.

    The following day, as he was waiting for a reply, word was brought by a scout that the enemy were drawing near. Then he was at once hurried into a sedan with only two companions, a baker and a cook, and secretly went to his father’s house on the Aventine, intending to flee from there to Campania. Presently, on a slight and dubious rumour that peace had been granted, he allowed himself to be taken back to the Palace. Finding everything abandoned there, and that even those who were with him were making off, he put on a girdle filled with gold pieces and took refuge in the lodge of the doorkeeper, tying a dog before the door and putting a couch and a mattress against it.

  17. The foremost of the army had now forced their way in, and since no one opposed them, were ransacking everything in the usual way. They dragged Vitellius from his hiding-place and when they asked him his name (for they did not know him) and if he knew where Vitellius was, he attempted to escape them by a lie. Being soon recognised, he did not cease to beg that he be confined for a time, even in the prison, alleging that he had something to say of importance to the safety of Vespasian. But they bound his arms behind his back, put a noose about his neck, and dragged him with rent garments and half-naked to the Forum. All along the Sacred Way he was greeted with mockery and abuse, his head held back by the hair, as is common with criminals, and even the point of a sword placed under his chin, so that he could not look down but must let his face be seen. Some pelted him with dung and ordure, others called him incendiary and glutton, and some of the mob even taunted him with his bodily defects. He was in fact abnormally tall, with a face usually flushed from hard drinking, a huge belly, and one thigh crippled from being struck once upon a time by a four-horse chariot, when he was in attendance on Gaius as he was driving. At last on the Stairs of Wailing he was tortured for a long time and then despatched and dragged off with a hook to the Tiber.

  18. He met his death, along with his brother and his son, in the fifty-seventh year of his age, fulfilling the prediction of those who had declared from an omen which befell him at Vienna, as we have stated,826 that he was destined to fall into the power of some man of Gaul. For he was slain by Antonius Primus, a leader of the opposing faction, who was born at Tolosa and in his youth bore the surname Becco, which means a rooster’s beak.827