Monday, 28 February 2011

Rapid Decline, Swift Fall

Tacitus tells the tale of AD 69, the Year of the Four Emperors. Here's number three making way:
Vitellius, seeing the City taken, was carried in a chair through the back part of the palace to his wife’s house upon Mount Aventine, with a purpose, if he could by lurking there escape discovery during the day, to fly by night to his brother’s Cohorts at Tarracina. But from unsteadiness of spirit, such too being the nature of dread, that to one who fears all things, present things are ever most irksome, he came back to the palace now desolate and wild: For all his slaves, even the lowest, had slipped away, or else carefully avoided to meet him. Terrifying to him proved the dismal solitude, and every part still and silent: He tried apartments that were shut: He shrunk with horror to behold all void and desart. Weary at last with such miserable and solitary wandering to and fro, he thrust himself into a hiding place sordid and disgraceful, and by Julius Placidus, Tribune of a Prætorian Band, was dragged from it. Behind him forthwith his hands were tied: Thus with his apparel all rent, he was haled along, a spectacle foul and sad, many reviling him, no one bewailing him. Indeed such was the abasement and indecency of his end, as to have banished all pity. There met him one of the German soldiers, and with his sword drawn made a violent blow, whether out of fury and vengeance, or the sooner to release him from insults and derision, or whether aiming at the life of the Tribune, is matter of uncertainty. The Tribune’s ear he actually cut off, and was himself instantly slain. Vitellius they forced, with their swords pointed at his throat, now to hold up his head, and present his face to a deluge of indignities, anon to behold his own Statues tumbled down, and particularly to view the place of assemblies, and that where Galba suffered his bloody doom. In this manner they pushed him forward, and at last into the charnel of Malefactors, where the corps of Flavius Sabinus had lain exposed. One saying there was which fell from him, savouring of no baseness of spirit; when to the Tribune treating him with roughness and insults, he answered, “That nevertheless he had been his Emperor.” Then, under many wounds given him, he fell and expired. The common herd inveighed against him, after he was slain, with the same depravity of heart with which they had caressed him while he yet lived.

Thanks to the Online Library of Liberty

No comments: