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1 UNSTABLE AUTHORITY IN TACITUS HISTORIES 1 AND 2 By MEGAN M. DALY A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2008
2 2008 Megan M. Daly
3 avo meo
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank m y director, Dr. Victoria Pagn, for her inspiration and encouragement, as well as Dr. Lewis Sussman and Dr. Andrew Wolpert for their support and patience. I am deeply indebted to these professors and the rest of the Classics family at the University of Florida for all their academic nurtu ring over the years. I also owe thanks to my fellow graduate students, partic ularly Seth Boutin and James Lohmar, for helping me throughout our arduous journey together, and to my Latin students for always providing me with fresh motivation. Furthermore, I thank the lovely Williams ladies for their many years of companionship, and all my other friends who have carried me to this point. Finally, I am forever grateful to my parents, brothers, and grandpa.
5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4 ABSTRACT.....................................................................................................................................6 CHAP TER 1 INTRODUCTION....................................................................................................................8 2 THE AUTHORITY OF GALBA........................................................................................... 14 How Did Galba Become Emperor?........................................................................................14 How Does Galba Strive to Maintain Authority? ....................................................................15 What Authority Does Galba Manage to Gain? ....................................................................... 17 What Causes Galbas Authority to Become Unstable?.......................................................... 23 3 THE AUTHORITY OF OTHO.............................................................................................. 35 How Did Otho Become Emperor?.......................................................................................... 35 How Does Otho Strive to Maintain Authority? ...................................................................... 42 What Authority Does Otho Manage to Gain? ........................................................................45 What Causes Othos Authority to Become Unstable?............................................................ 48 4 THE AUTHORITY OF TACITUS........................................................................................ 61 How Does Tacitus Strive to Establish Authority?.................................................................. 61 What Authority Does Tacitus Manage to Gain?.....................................................................63 What Causes Tacitus Authority to Becom e Unstable?.......................................................... 66 5 CONCLUSION..................................................................................................................... ..68 LIST OF REFERENCES...............................................................................................................70 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.........................................................................................................71
6 Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts UNSTABLE AUTHORITY IN TACITUS HISTORIES 1 AND 2 By Megan M. Daly May 2008 Chair: Victoria Pagn Major: Classical Studies This thesis examines authority in Tacitus Histories 1 and 2 and how it becomes unstable. The Histories are centered on authority as it is eagerly sought, initially gained, achieved, and lost. I endeavor to track the authority of Galba and Otho as it travels through these four phases, and thus clarify what, according to Tacitus, went wrong during thes e two reigns and caused them to fail. I then turn to examine Tacitus himself and how he strives for authority as a historian writing about such instability. In the Histories 1 and 2, Tacitus relates the reigns of Galba and Otho through to the end. He begins with Galbas imperium already in decline, and then shows how Galbas authority is lost through his own character flaws, his adopt ion of Piso, and his poor relations with the soldiers. While Galba is losing authority, Otho is gaining it through flat tery and generosity towards the soldiers. Otho is nothing like the ol d, severe Galba, but much like the decadent, youthful Nero. Yet after removing th e aged emperor and gaining the imperium for himself, Otho experiences his own unstable authority. His chai n of command is so dys functional that wise counsel is ignored and mutiny is rampant. Because good generals are despised by wildly overzealous troops, victory agai nst the Vitellians is impossible and Otho meets his ruin. Thus both emperors suffer failure due to unstable authority.
7 In contrast to Galba and Otho, Tacitus hims elf achieves strong authority as a history writer. He frames his first two books of the Histories with direct authorial addresses which allow him to position himself among good historians who write pari eloquentia ac libertate (1.1.1), and contrast himself with bad historians who write in adulationem (2.101.1). Throughout the rest of the text, Tacitus balances digressions, impersona l statements, and direct first person assertions to show a firm yet fair command of his work. Although he writes of uns table authority, Tacitus exhibits strong control over his narrative and proves himself especially worthy of writing about this turbulent year.
8 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION In the year 69 CE, Rom e fell under the authority of four emperors. Galba came first, but quickly lost his imperium1 to Otho. Otho was able to hold a longer command, but Vitellius threatened his power right from the start and eventually gained the emperorship for himself. Yet he too would perish, making way for Vespasian and his sons. In the Histories 1 and 2, Tacitus charts the authority of Galba and Otho through to the end. He begins with Galbas imperium already in jeopardy, and then proceeds to show how Galbas character flaws, adoption, and poor relations w ith the troops hasten his ruin. For Otho, Tacitus elaborates on his rebellious rise to power, his liberality to the soldiers with rewards and flattery, and his imperium in relation to a broken chain of command. Indeed, the Histories are centered on authority as it is eagerly sought initially gained, ach ieved, and lost. I end eavor to track the authority of Galba and Otho as it moves thr ough these four phases, and thus clarify what, according to Tacitus, went wrong during these two reigns to cause unstable imperium challenges against authority, and consequent failure. Then I examine how T acitus establishes authority of his own as a historian writing about thes e challenges to unstable authority. The authority of Galba differs so greatly from that of Otho. The two rise to power, strive for authority, secure it, and lose it in widely different ways. Whereas Galba loses his authority right from the outset of the Histories, Othos full rise through a coup is depicted. Galba tries to gain authority through harsh discipline and adop tion of Piso, Otho through rewards and flattery. Galbas authority is secure only with a few high-ranking individuals, bu t Otho can depend on the fidelity of the entire common soldiery. Galba loses authority primarily because of his own faults, while Otho falls prey to a broken chain of co mmand. The multiple points of contrast provide 1 I use the word imperium in this thesis to re fer to imperial power; OLD 1c.
9 sufficient material for a fruitful analysis. In addi tion, the two emperors are ideal as a pair because they are interlocked in the narrative: as Galba loses authority, so Otho gains it. Vitellius is excluded because hi s authority mirrors that of Otho. Both are labeled for their extravagance and have problems with their commanders and troops. In addition, Caecina and Valens are the prime figures of authority for the Vitellians until late in Book 2. Vitellius himself is hardly mentioned in the firs t 57 chapters of this book, presumably because he is gathering forces from Germany (2.57.1). Vitellius is so det ached from the action of the first half of Book 2 that, even after Bedriacum, he is victoriae suae nescius (2.57.1). Only after this point does he begin to show signs of his own (y et still Otho-like) authority. Essentially I engage in a close reading of Histories 1 and 2, with much help from the commentaries by Damon and Ash. When reading, I pay special attention to repeating words (such as auctoritas severitas or avaritia ), and themes (like disobedience due to excessive zeal), which suggest the perfect reci pe for unstable authority. Three studies of the Histories in particular have ill uminated my efforts: Ordering Anarchy: Armies and Leaders in Tacitus Histories by Ash, Seditio: Military Disintegration in Tacitus Histories by Manolaraki, and The History of Make-Believe: Tacitus on Imperial Rome by Haynes Ash seeks to analyze how Tacitus in the Histories responds to such distinctive problems of narrating civil war, particularly in his characterization of leaders and soldiers (1999.3). She begins by comparing the Galbians a nd Othonians, arguing that the Galbians are the most obscure of the four armies, but th eir characterization ca n be summed up in Histories 1.18, Galbas speech to the troops. First, Tacitus di stinguishes between officers and soldiers; the former respond favorably to Galba, the latter with grim silence. This shows a rift in the hierarchy and a difference in motivations. Second, the soldie rs are motivated not by loyalty, but by money.
10 Third, the discontentment of the Galbians is nursed slowly and passively and is not an explosive kind of strife. This behavior contrasts with th e Othonians, who learn that violence gets them what they want (1999.31). A broke n hierarchy does not help the situation. While the Othonians become increasingly loyal to Otho, they learn to hate their officers. Thro ugh these characteristics Tacitus demonstrates that an emperor cannot de pend on popularity and generosity in order to be successful, but he must also have a strong hier archy of officers (1999.35). Ash also analyzes the characteristics of individual lead ers and Tacitus way of tying th em in close connection with the collective identitie s of the soldiers (1999.73). Through the soldiers eyes, Tacitus makes Galba appear old, stingy, and overly stri ct. His positive qualities are caref ully omitted, and the narrative begins with Galbas luck already running out. Tacitus charac terization of Otho is quite different: he is sometimes a soldier, sometimes a decadent emperor like Nero. Ash concludes that Tacitus characterization of Otho is complex and challengi ng, and raises questions about the nature of power (1999.94). These types of observations are v ital to the understanding of the authority of Galba and Otho. In contrast to Ash, however, my study focuses not on the armies themselves, but how the armies interact with the authority of their emperors. Manolaraki continues this di scussion of dynamics between troops and leaders in her dissertation. Yet Manolaraki takes th is relationship of commanders and armies one step further to examine specifically the mo tif of mutiny. She is the first to assert that the mutinies in the Histories are the essential fabric within which Tac itus weaves his story of AD 69 and elaborates his literary, political, an d meta-historical concer ns (2003.2-3). Because the Histories really are essentially the narrative of successive mutin ies (2003.2), Manolarakis analysis of the topos and structure of mutiny allows re aders to better navigate the various complex revolts in Tacitus text, and thus is a much needed contribution to Tacitean scholarship. In her last chapter,
11 Manolaraki boldly argues that the praetorian mutiny ( Hist 1.80-4) provides an interpretive blueprint to understa nding the overall struct ure of mutiny in the Histories (2003.109). Her methodology is a comparison of mutinies within Latin literature (particularly in Livy), and then within the Histories, focused specifically on themes, st ructure, and vocabulary. The final conclusion is that mutinies are not just decora tive elements, but the fabric by which Tacitus communicates the political and military complexities of the year 69. Her work therefore has been helpful in understanding the Histories as a whole, but more speci fically in understanding the breakdown of authority in relation to mutiny. Manolaraki br ings us one step closer to my idea of unstable authority. As much as Ash and Manolarak i complement each other, The Histories of Make-Believe: Tacitus on Imperial Rome by Haynes stands in complete contrast She diverges from the vein of these previous two scholars and ventures down a road entirely of her own. Her work is theoretical and philosophical, a nd argues that Tacitus unifies the style and content of his historiography in order to produce in the reader the experience of believing and understanding as the actors in the text do (2003.3) Her second chapter is most re levant to my own study, since it discusses the chaos of the year 69 in relation to Neros death. Nero is a species in that his absence represents the ga p between the unbearable real that is beyond language, symbolization, narrative, and ther efore ideology, and the symbolic ally structured reality in which Roman society actually operates (2003.35). The men of AD 69, then, are images of an image. Galba exists as a projection of public feeling about the abse nt Nero (2003.46), while Otho evokes Nero and acts as his placeholde r (2003.63). The greatest benefit of this book comes from taking these abstract views of the emperors and adding them to what Ash has already laid out about th eir characters. Once viewed through the lenses of make-believe, Galba
12 and Otho take on new images. Furthermore, Haynes paves the way for an understanding of Tacitus method of history writing, which I take up in the final chapter of this thesis. For information on the historical facts of the Long Year, I rely on Morgans book 69 AD The Year of Four Emperors Morgan reconstructs in exhaustive detail the military and political intricacies of the year 69. He focuses on Tacitus account in particular, an d so claims that this book may be able to function as a kind of companion to the Histories (2006.10). The chapters walk the reader through the events much in th e same way that Tacitus account does, but the advantage to reading this book side-by-side with the Histories is this: Morgan fills in the blanks and reveals details which Tacitus omits. For example, Tacitus begins his Histories when Galba is already losing favor. Morgan opens his book with important facts on the Julio-Claudians and the end of Neros reign, so his readers are then prepar ed to read about Galba from the very start of his involvement up through Tacitu s beginning. By providing additional historical details, Morgan bridges information gaps to help reader s of Tacitus grasp comp lexities of all sorts concerning the Histories Tacitus the Sententious Historian by Sinclair and Authority and Tradition in Ancient Historiography by Marincola become vital in my chapte r on Tacitus authority as a historian. Sinclair provides information on how Tacitu s builds authorial expression through certain vocabulary, phrases, and narrative st ructure. Marincola analyzes T acitus authority directly, and explains how Tacitus places himself among distinguished historians who wrote pari eloquentia ac libertate (1.1.1) My study of unstable authority in the Histories 1 and 2 proceeds as follows. Chapter one takes Galba as the starting point I examine how he becomes empe ror, how he strives to gain authority, what authority he actually manages to gain, and what causes his authority to become
13 unstable. Because Tacitus begins the Histories with Galbas authority already on the decline, very little can be said about Ga lbas rise to the emperorship, but much about his loss of authority. Chapter two applies these same four questions to Otho, but is more complex. Othos reign bridges Histories 1 and 2 (approximately 90 chapters) and is recorded in full from the seizure of authority from one emperor to the loss of aut hority to another. For the sake of clarity, the evidence is organized more or less chronologically rather than topically (as with Galba). A significant amount of time is allotted to analys is of the coup, but again unstable authority receives the most attention. Chapter three turns to the author himself and analyzes how Tacitus establishes authority as a historian and places himself in the tradition of history writers. Books 1 and 2 are framed by two remarkable moments when Tacitus speaks in th e first person. In addi tion to these blatant authorial appearances, Tacitus makes his pr esence known throughout the work in less overt ways, by means of first person verbs and pronouns, digressions, and impersonal phrases. A careful mix of bold assertion and subtle suggesti on allows him to control his narrative without losing the trust of his audience. With all things combined, Tacitus succeeds in attaining authority and claims a spot among the best of Roman historians. The Histories are centered on the ebb and flow of authority during the Long Year. As the emperors gain imperium strive for support, solidify fidelity or lose authority, the chaos of civil war becomes apparent. By working through the f our phases mentioned above, I will show what caused unstable authority and consequent ruin for Galba and Otho in the year 69, and what caused Tacitus to be especially worthy of writing about this turbulent year.
14 CHAPTER 2 THE AUTHORITY OF GALBA How Did Galba Become Emperor? In the Histories, Tacitus does not tell his audience exactly how Galba becam e emperor. Because he opens his narrative on Janua ry 1 in the annalistic tradition,1 Galba already holds imperium but he experiences a severe decline in his authority. Tacitu s does not tell his audience this directly until 1.12.1 (when he begins the narrative proper), but he continually hints at Galbas gradual failure throughout his introduction. Ch apter 2 lists the horrors and instability of the empire, and even reveals quattuor principes ferro interempti, a statement blatantly foreshadowing Galbas death.2 Chapter 5 portrays the army as pronus ad novas res and the prefect Nymphidius Sabinus as eager for imperium Chapter 6 further implies Galbas ruin by introducing Titus Vinius and Cornelius Laco as the men who caused his destruction. Indeed, these first eleven chapters are sewn thick with the seeds of Galbas downfall, and chapter 12 reveals the result of his unpopular ity. Shortly after January 1, the legions of Upper Germany disregard their oath to Galba and demand a diff erent emperor. This is how Tacitus narrative proper begins, when Galbas fortunes are alre ady on the decline (Ash 1999.76), so we do not see him seize power firsthand in the Histories. Instead we are left one clue at 1.15.1. In his speech to Piso, Galba only mentions that he gained the principate in war ( principatumbello adeptus), but no details are provided. Thus the Histories do not narrate Galbas rise into power, but reveal everything concerning his fall. 1 Damon points out Tacitus choice of the annalistic starting point in preference to Neros suicide or the beginning of Galbas principate (2003.78) Syme calls Tacitus decision vital and in evitable, as traveling back to Neros end or Galbas beginning would require Tacitus to fill in a wealth of background informa tion, whereas jumping ahead and making a start somewhere else in the year 69 would cut out too many important events (1958.145). 2 I use Damons text of Histories 1 and Ashs text of Histories 2 throughout this thesis; all translations are my own.
15 How Does Galba Strive to Maintain Authority? As his downfall occurs, Galba vainly attem pts to maintain authority through a character trait and a legal mechanism, name ly his old-fashioned strictness ( severitas ) and his adoption of Piso. When Galba is first characterized at 1.5, Tacitus writes that his severitas was once praised and much talked about among the soldiers ( laudata olim et militare fama celebrate severitas eius). 3 Galba does not realize that times have changed and his tight grip now causes aggravation ( angebat aspernantes veterem disciplinam 1.5.2). Throughout the first 49 chapters of the Histories, repeated references to severitas establish Galbas harshne ss as one of his main character flaws. At 1.14.2, Piso is described as being a pleasing candidate for adoption because, much like Galba himself, Piso was a man of the old customs in appearance and demeanor, stern, and quite gloomy ( vultu habituque moris antiqui et ae stimatione recta severus,tristior ). The next two chapters echo these traits as Galba advises Piso towards temperance ( secundae resanimos explorant inrunpet adulatio, blanditiae et pessimum veri adfectus venenum, sua cuique utilitas, 1.15.2; sit ante oculos Nerosua immanitas, sua luxuria cervicibus publicis depulerunt, 1.16.1). Galbas speech teems with such a str ong concern for sobriety to no purpose. Tacitus follows this speech with another description of Piso, a mirror imag e of the portrait given three chapters earlier. Piso is reverens moderatus and there is no change in his appearance or demeanor ( nihil in vultu habituque mutatum 1.17.1). This emphasis on severitas over the course of four chapters serves to label Galba and his heir as overtly strict, and just in time for Ga lbas speech to the troops (1.18), when Tacitus narrates Galbas coldest, most st ern moment. Restricting the speech to a single chapter, Tacitus writes with the same brevity used by Galba himself ( imperatoria brevitatepronuntiat). The 3 Damons suggestion is used to translate militari fama celebrata as much talked about among the soldiers, since it handles the ablative of means fama with minimal clumsiness (2003.106).
16 indirect speech feels dull and impersonal. Galb a only offers the crowd what is necessary ( nec ullum orationi aut lenocinium addit aut pretium, 1.18.2), and so loses their attention and loyalty. He was plain and curt, disdaini ng any effort to win their sy mpathies (Syme 1958.152). The end of this chapter (1.18.3) illustrates Galb as gloominess reflected onto his troops ( per ceteros maestitia ac silentum ), completed by a foreshadowing of its result, Galbas downfall ( nocuit antiquus rigor et nimia severitas ). Thus, this very severitas will be a primary cause of Galbas ruin (Damon 2003.105), although he ironically tries to wield it as an auth oritative tool. Even when surrounded by so much danger and uncertainty, Galba feigns control by asking Othos alleged murderer who gave him his orders ( inquit, quis iussit? insigni animo ad coercendam militarem licentiam 1.35.2). Ash speculates perhaps Ga lba thought that a tough persona was just as instrumental in gaining support as his stance as a liberator (1999.76). Yet in this instance, the very thing that is supposed to gain authority, severitas, serves as a challenge to that authority. Perhaps a more successful means of gaining authority rested with Piso. Galba certainly recognizes his opportunity to regain favor through a wise adoption, and this is the first move he makes when he hears of the mutiny in Upper Germany (1.12.1). Galbas speech clearly shows his belief that Piso will patch up his precarious situat ion: Once people hear about the adoption, I will cease to seem an old man, which now is the only offense against me ( audita adoptione desinam videri senex, quod nunc mihi unum obicitur 1.16.3). Galba does not realize that, if anything, an adoption will make him appear even older. In any case, Pi sos presence as an imperial figure appears restorative at first. He has ability but l acks wicked ambition ( quasi imperare posset magis quam vellet, 1.17.1), he has grace and the favor of the senate ( Pisonis comis oratio et patrum favor aderat 1.19.1), and so he seems to take on an image of authority.
17 As Haynes points out, however, th e senate no longer cares about the state, but only about their own selfish hopes ( paucis iudicium aut rei publi cae amor: multi stulta spe 1.12.3). The senators demonstrate a nearly tota l lack of interest in the adop tion in their desire to keep up appearances (Haynes 2003.43). In spite of this, Piso is repeatedly se nt in as a representative of the imperial power. At 1.19, when the senate deci des to send a delegation to pacify the mutinous troops in Germany, they debate whether to send Piso, since he would bear the dignity of a Caesar (hic dignationem Caesaris laturus, 1.19.2). Piso makes no further moves ( nec aliud sequenti quadriduodictum a Pisone in publico factumve 1.19.1) until Othos coup explodes. While Galba hides in the palace with his au thority preserved for greater measures ( integra auctoritas maioribus remediis servabatur 1.29.1), Piso stands in the lin e of fire in an attempt to calm the soldiers. Piso is sent to the camp to win back military fidelity, since he was young, from a good family, recently popular, and an enemy to Titus Vinius ( ut iuvenis magno nomine, recenti favore et infensus Tito Vinio, 1.34.1). Once again timing is not on Pisos side, because in the camps the intentions of all were no longer questionable ( haud dubiae iam in castris omnium mentes 1.36.1). Piso enters too late to establish any solid authority, just as Galbas decisions had come too late to pacify the troops in the Nort h. Adoption only aggravates the anger and jealously of the desirous Otho (in Galbam ira, in Pisonem invidia 1.21.1), who sees the delayed act as an opportunity to strike ( proinde agendum audendumque, dum Ga lbae auctorita fluxa, Pisonis nondum coaluisset 1.21.2).Once again, the emperors atte mpt to hold authority causes him to lose it. So it seems that the biggest challeng es to unstable authority are the means by which Galba tries to maintain what little authority he has. What Authority Does Galba Man age to Gain? Although Galba fails to gain authority through disc ipline and his adoption of Piso, he is not completely unrecognized as the imperial power. Throughout the Histories Tacitus hints that
18 even though he was certainly not respected by the common soldiers, Galba held favor in the eyes of several officers. For example, the reception of Galbas speech in the military camp is described as mixed: the tribune s and centurions and those soldiers nearest to him respond with agreeable listening, from the others there was gloominess and silence ( tribuni tamen centurionesque et proximi militum grata auditu re spondent: per ceteros maestitia ac silentium 1.18.3). In the very next chapter, Tacitus ackno wledges a similarity between Galbas words to the troops and his speech to the senate ( inde apud senatum non comptior Galbae, non longior quam apud militem sermo, 1.19.1), and the reactions Galba receives are also lukewarm. Although favor is generally present ( patrum favor aderat ), some senators react favorably ( multi voluntate), others are apathetic and comply only because of their own selfish hopes ( medii ac plurimi obvio obsequio, privatas spes agitantes 1.19.1). From these few sentences it becomes clear that Galba can never secure the fidelity of the whole group. He catches the favor of the high-ranking, but he cannot capture the cares of the dishonorable or the vulgus Similarly, when Piso stands before the palace and speaks ag ainst Otho and mutiny, some troops sneak away, some listen ( dilapsis speculatoribus cetera cohors non aspernata contionantem 1.31.1). Both Galba and Piso have difficulty holding the attention of a crowd. In this same chapter, three parts of the sp ectrum are represented: those who hate Galba, those who like him, and those who teeter in the middle. The legion of the marines was not to be trusted since they had been angered by the massacre at Galbas entrance ( infestae ob caedem commilitonum, 1.31.2). Cetrius Severus, Subrius Dexter, a nd Pompeius Longinus risk their lives on behalf of Galba and are attacked while goi ng to the camp to avert the mutiny. Longinus was a particular target because of his friendship with Galba ( e Galbae amicissuscipior, 1.31.3). Finally, at the end of 1.31, the German detachment s waver because they were kindly disposed to
19 Galba (placatis animis) since he took care of them when they returned from Alexandria. Once again, Galba has secured some favor, but incomplete support causes his situation to crumble. The support Galba does receive, then, come s from individuals who are singled out specifically by Tacitus (for example, Severus, Dexter, and Longinus at 1.31.2). The first and perhaps most important supporter is Vespasian who was in no way adverse to Galba, and in fact he sent Titus to pay respects to him. Later, Ta citus elaborates on this at the beginning of Book 2, and so it seems that his mention at 1.10.3 of Titus visit is intended primarily to show that Galba was respected by his commander in the East. Much later we find th at Galba was also well liked by Caecina ( hunc iuvenum Galba, quaestorem in Baetica impigre in partes suas transgressum, legioni praeposuit 1.53.1), until Caecina was charged w ith embezzling funds. Much nobler are the four centurions whom Tacitus makes sure to name at 1.56.1. Nonius Receptus, Donatius Valens, Romilius Marcellus, and Calpurnius Re pentinus, all of the twenty-second legion, were thrown into chains after trying to protect Galbas images from abuse ( cum protegerent Galbae imagines, impetu militum abrepti vinctique ). Damon notes that none of these men are attested elsewhere (2003.217), and so Tacitus mention of them, especially with such specific identification, lends credibility to their story of faith towards Galba.4 A final impressive act of loyalty occurs at 1.71, many chapters after Galbas death. Marius Celsus pleads guilty in front of Otho to fidelity towards Galba. This is a courageous move, since at 1.45.2 the soldiers demanded his punishment because he was a loya l friend to Galba until the end ( Galbae usque in extremas 4 Another noble individual, Sempronius Densus, is named at 1.43. The same fides towards the imperium can be seen, as Densus holds off assassins long enough for Piso to escape to the Temple of Vesta. Damon notes that in Plutarch and Dio, Densus is protecting Galba, not Piso (2003.186).
20 res amicum fidumque). In spite of this, Celsus lives on with the esteem of both Otho and the troops.5 In addition to the faith of these few indi viduals, Galba trusts generally in good men, boni He acknowledges this in his speech to Piso when he says: you and I must see to it that he (Nero) is not missed also by the good ( mihi ac tibi providendum est ne etiam a bonis desideretur 1.16.3).6 Unlike those brave men mentioned by name Tacitus never clearly identifies the boni perhaps because they never follow through with real aid for Galba. Damon writes The events of 15 January showed that the support of the boni on whom Galba relied was of no use to him (2003.167). At 1.32.2, Vinius (perhaps insidiously) advi ses Galba to sit in his palace and wait out the mutiny by allowing time for the good to come to a consensus ( daret bonorum consensui spatium ). But Laco and the others re cognize the foolishness of this a dvice and sarcastically reply that there was splendid assist ance to be found among the slaves, if the consensus of such a multitude and their first indignation, wh ich is strongest, should slacken ( praeclarum in servis auxilium si consensus tantae mu ltitudinis et, quae plurimum va let, prima indignatio elanguescat 1.33.2). Concerning this statement, Damon comments that In the view of these advisors, the boni are neither many nor reliable (2003.169). Indeed these advisors are right. At 1.33.1 those in favor of action against the muti ny paint a picture of Galba, the egregius emperor, besieged in the palace with his courageous friends ( cum fortibus amicis). Yet no such friends are found once Galba leaves the palace and is suddenly in true danger. Of course the mutiny may never have grown so large if the boni had stepped up in the first place. At 1.26.1, Tacitus indicated that the 5 Damon points out that Celsus earns the titulus virtutis which Otho was trying to achieve for himself in this situation (2003.244). Sincere loyalty wins out in this instance. 6 Just before this statement, Galba says that Nero will always be missed by the worst men ( Nero a pessimo quoque semper desiderabitur, 1.16.3). Then he says that he must see to it that Nero is not missed also by the good. In a way this implies that all of Galbas concerns are aimed towards pleasing the boni, and that he considers the others lost causes. By abandoning them, Galba se ts himself up for treachery.
21 loyal were willing to look the other way ( parata apud malos seditio, etiam apud integros dissimulatio fuit ). At 1.28.1, Julius Martialis, along with other tribunes and centurions, abandons loyalty and feigns complicity in order to protect himself ( anteposuere ceteri quoque tribuni centurionesque praesentia dubiis et honestis ). The men change from brave boni into the selfconcerned majority. All the while Galba believed he held authority with this group, when in fact their loyalty was false. Flattery caused others to act even more fa lsely and cowardly. Although Galba is described as impervious to flattery (adversus blandientis incorruptus 1.35.2),7 and he explicitly warns Piso of it ( inrumpet adulatio, blanditiaeadsentio erga quemcumque principem sine adfectu peragitur, 1.15.4), many men still attempt to use it. Even during the danger of Othos coup, flattery is not forgotten ( ne tum quidem obliti adulationis 1.29.1). When the rumor of Othos death is heard, the people, knights, and senators all give applause ( tum vero non populus tantum et imperita plebs in plausus et immodica studia sed equitum plerique ac senatorum, 1.35.1). The senators are perhaps most notorious for adulati on. At 1.19.1, most of the senators approve Pisos adoption with servility because of their own selfish hopes ( medii ac plurimi obvio obsequio, privatas spes agitantes sine publica cura ). In this same chapter, the senate votes that a delegation be sent to the army in Germany, but asks Galba to choose its members. In actuality, however, the men themselves decide whether to stay or to go, according to their hopes or fears ( ut quemque metus vel spes impulerat 1.19.2). Galba exerts no control ( foeda inconstantia 1.19.2). Concerning the vulgus Galbas authority is non-exista nt. According to Keitel, the sycophancy of the vulgus is revealed during the coup: the common people call for Othos death, but they possessed neither judgment not truth, since on the same day they would demand the 7 Not only does Galba no t like to receive flattery, but he refuses to gi ve it, which upsets the soldiers in 1.18.2 ( nec ullum orationi aut lenocinium addit aut pretium ).
22 opposite with equal enthusiasm ( neque illis iudicium aut veritas quippe eodem die diversa pari certamine postulaturis 1.32.1; 2006.229). Similarly, the so-cal led responsible classes burst into the palace and show equal hypocrisy, be ing men only of words and not of action ( in periculo non ausurus, nimii verbis, linguae feroces 1.35.1; Keitel 2006.230). Agai n, flattery runs high, and real concern is low. Husband analyzes th e indifference shown by the silent multitude at 1.40 and elsewhere, arguing that they did not activel y hate Galba, but rath er the citizens had no special fondness for any one of the possible claimants to the throne: ut non in unum aliquem prono favore, ita audenti parata (1.6.2; 1915.324). Hated or not, Galba nevertheless was not in good favor with the people. As Ash reveals in her book Ordering Anarchy the state of Galba s authority with the troops is even worse. All of Book 1 resonates with the unhappiness of the common soldiers, but some instances are particularly worth mentionin g. Tacitus does not reveal until 1.55 that Galbas imperium was disregarded in Germany from the very star t. Only some soldiers recite the oath of allegiance on January 1 while the others stand in silence.8 Some legions throw stones at Galbas images while others tear them down. No officer s step up to stop these acts of insolence. No respect for authority is found. Yet throughout Book 1 the common soldiery feels that the officers are on Galbas side. During the coup, as they ra ise Otho onto a platform, the troops warn each other to be cautious of their commanders ( gregarius miles caveri in super praepositos iubebat 1.36.2). This episode nicely demonstrates that even the ordinary troops knew that Galbas sole 8 The troops accept Galbas speech at 1.18 in much the same way. Some are resp onsive while others remain silent.
23 source of support resided in his officers. It is pr imarily Galbas failure to secure authority with the common soldiers that causes his destruction.9 What Causes Galbas Authority to Become Unstable? Galbas au thority with the soldiers fails due to many factors, many of which are character flaws: severitas the adoption of Piso, the memory of Nero, Galbas old age and greed, the infaustus entrance into the city, the trouble brewi ng because of unfit or power-hungry leaders, and Galbas fickleness and ignoran ce. Tacitus presents them all at 1.4-11. Damon indicates that these chapters summarize the c ondition of the empire at the be ginning of 69, starting with the after-effects of Neros death, traveling through R omes increasing familiar ity with Galba, then describing the state of the provinces. She notes, As defined by chh. 4-7 the significant elements in the status urbis were the attitudes towards Galba in the various groups surveyed and the general instabilityThese two themes also dominate chh. 8-11. (2003.98). By giving this overview, Tacitus paints a full picture of Galba for his readers which he will expand in his main narrative, and then re cap in later chapters. He sets out at 1.4 to explain the emotion felt over the death of Nero, a character who haunts the Histories frequently, as Haynes has shown.10 Nero even creeps briefly into 1.5.1, but then Tacitus returns to Galba. He mentions his failure to reward the soldiers and the attempt of the mutin ous Nymphidius, but then Tacitus bombards the reader with Galbas old age, gr eed, and severity all in a matter of a few lines. The chapter then closes with another comparison with Nero. As if Galbas image has not plummeted enough by these statements, 1.6.1 opens with the words invalidum and senem describing the emperor. 9 Ash points out that the disaff ection of the troops towards Galba is passiv e (they stand in silence during his speech at 1.18) and needs a catalyst (Otho) to become active and violent: most low-ranking soldiers allow their resentment to smoulder rather than to explode dramatically (1999.26). 10 Haynes focuses an entire chapter around Neros absence in the Histories: Neros influence is written all over this story, from the public reaction to his death to impersona tions of him both by subsequent emperors and by faraway fortune seekers (2003.34).
24 Another early reference is made to Galbas ru in as Vinius and Laco are introduced as his destroyers, and then Galbas ill-omened entrance into the city is mentioned. The city is filled with troops (1.6) and executions ar e ubiquitous (1.7). The provinces are also in turmoil, governed by men who are either wea k, or corrupt and hungry for power. Overall there is ingens materia novis rebus (1.6.2). Needless to say, the old fashioned discipline of Galba is not a trait the soldiers experienced with their previous emperor. B y stressing his rigorous methods of military leadership, the new emperor indicates publicly that he will not be another Nero (Ash 1999.76). Indeed, Galba is in no way a Nero, and this also causes him trouble.11 Before Galba is even officially introduced, Tacitus writes how Neros death st irs various emotions in the city.12 Some are elated, but the lowly plebs and slaves are distraught because of their dependence on Nero ( adesis bonis per dedecus Neronis alebantur 1.4.3). Next, Tacitus suggests that the soldiers had not abandoned Nero by decision, but rather they were tricked ( ad destituendum Neronem arte magis et impulsu quam suo ingenio traductus ). The troops notice that they have lost some privileges under Galba, which makes them pronus ad novas res (1.5.1). Nero appears yet again at the end of this chapter in a comparison of the emperors: although the men had learned to love the vices of Nero, they could not tolerate Galbas rigor ( angebat aspernantis vetere m disciplinam atque ita quattuordecim annis a Nerone adsuefactos ut haud minus vitia principum amarent quam olim virtutes verebantur, 1.5.2). Haynes writes that together 1.4-5 present the absent Nero as a kind of energy source against which Galbas charact er and policies will be measured (2003.46). Indeed, Neros name lingers in the text, making two appearances at 1.6, then in another 11 Ash writes, Galba repeatedly exploited the fruitful contrast between polarized images of republican liberty and imperial tyranny: he himself symbolized the former, while Nero embodied the latter (1999.74). 12 Haynes points out that 1.4 was considered by Syme as th e beginning of the second pr eface, and Tacitus gives his (Neros) absence an important place as the h eader of the second preface (2003.41).
25 comparison at 1.7.3 between Neros youth and Galbas old age.13 The soldiers were used to a certain kind of emperor, and that is where their fi delity continued to lie. When Otho is introduced at 1.13, he is said to hold favor with the tr oops and Neros court because he was like Nero ( faventibus plerisque militum, prona in eum aula Neronis ut similem, 1.13.4). Yet Galba fails to wield this situation to his advantage. In his speech to Piso, he bashes Nero for his savage character and extravagance ( sua immanitas, sua luxuria 1.16.2), along with those who miss Neros rule (1.16.3). Galba makes a dangerous move by shunning those loyal to Nero. Galbas old age is also strongly criticized in these early chapters. As mentioned above, many had become accustomed to Neros youth and good looks, and so Galbas advanced age was quite unappealing (ipsa aetas Galbae inrisui ac fastid io erat adsuetis iuventae Neronis et imperatores forma ac deco re corporiscomparantibus 1.7.3). His old age dr aws attention in the two preceding chapters as we ll and will echo further into 1.9, 1.12, 1.16, and beyond. Tacitus creates a strand which cannot be missed. At 1.5.2, senium is a subject of ridicule among the soldiers ( nec deerant sermones senium atque avaritiam Galbae increpantium), and senem appears as the second word of 1.6.1, next to invalidum To begin a chapter with such a phrase blatantly emphasizes Galbas elderly condition. B ecause a statement of the emperors subjection to Vinius and Laco immediately fo llows, Galba appears even weaker.14 A remark at 1.12.2 recalls both 1.6 and 1.5 as men go ssip about Galbas feeble age ( non sane crebrior tota civitate sermo per illos mensis fueratdein fessa iam aetate Galbae). In the strongest gesture towards old age, Hord eonius Flaccus (not Ga lba) is described as senecta ac debilitate pedum invalidum (1.9.1). Tacitus seems to take this opportunity to show 13 Damon comments that Valens and Caecina will also be compared in terms of age an d appearance at 1.52, 1.53, 1.66 (2003.114). 14 Damon notes that although other sources combine age and physical weakness to describe Galba, only T. connects Galbas physical state and his choice of associates in explaining his growing unpopularity (2003.106).
26 how dangerous old age (like Galbas) can be. Old age is scorned by the soldiers and coupled with a lack of firmness and authority ( sine constantia, sine auctoritate 1.9.1). The troops are restless and even agitated by weakness. Ingredients for mutiny seem ripe, and at 1.12.1 Flaccus legions are revealed as the first to begin seditio No reasons are directly stated, but since Galba reacts by considering adoption, he probably assumed his old age was the cause of the revolt.15 The speech to Piso confirms that Galba believed the adopti on would fix mens attitude s towards his senility, and thus the rebellious situation: et audita adoptione desinam videri senex, quod nunc mihi unum obicitur (1.16.3). Indeed, when mutiny breaks out in the city, Galba sends Piso to placate the troops because, among other things, he is young ( praemissus tamen in castra Piso, ut iuvenis 1.34.1). Mutiny rages on, and Galba finds his old age promotes his ruin now more than ever. He cannot defend himself as he is raised into a chair (inruenti turbae neque aetate neque corpore resistens sella levaretur 1.35.1), and later helplessly tumbled to the ground ( Galba proiectus e sella ac provolutus est 1.41.2).16 The soldiers rush to kill their emperor inermem et senem (1.40.2). Yet ironically, once Galba is dead Tacitu s does not mention his old age in his obituary except by noting that he lived 73 years and throug h the reigns of five emperors (1.49.2). The negative connotation does not appe ar here. It seems that over the span of these chapters (1.51.49), Galbas old age is for a long time scorne d, near the end becomes pitiful, and at last, completely free of negative feeling.17 Greed ( avaritia ) is the third characteristic to be co upled with old age and strictness at 1.5. Galba does not follow through with the promis ed donative, and this makes the soldiers pronus ad 15 As stated above, adoption was a hot topic for go ssip at this time because of Galbas old age ( crebriorsermofessa iam aetate Galbae 1.12). 16 Tacitus use of passive verbs here seems to emphasize Galbas powerlessness and lack of control. 17 Compared to other sources, however, Tacitus omits deta ils which might undermine Galbas identity as a frail old man (Ash 1999.78).
27 novas res when Nymphidius attempts his uprising. Also at 1.5, miserliness is evident in Galbas idealistic motto that he prefers choosing his soldiers to buying th em, a motto which is precarious to him ( ipsi anceps). Already Galbas stinginess has set him up for destruction, but at 1.18 the damage it has caused to the soldiers loyalty becomes obvious. When Galba offers no word of reward ( nec ullumaddit aut pretium, 1.18.2), and all hope of the donative is lost ( tamquam usurpatam etaim in pace donativi necessitatem bello perdidissent, 1.18.3), Galba clearly loses their support.18 Tacitus makes sure his audience realiz es the harm of Galbas stinginess by adding that the men could have been won over by the smallest generosity of the frugal old man ( constat potuisse conciliari animos quant ulacumque parci senis liberalitate, 1.18.3). From this point forward the troops are entirely lost to Galb a. And perhaps Galba realized his mistake all along, for one version of his last words portrays him pleading for a few days to pay the donative (1.41.2) in a vain effort to regain favor. Galba dies a stingy man, and this characteristic rings most negatively in his obituary (pecuniae alienae non adpetens, suae parcus, publicae avarus 1.49.3). Although the majority of the soldiery abandons Galba at 1.18 due to his miserliness, many soldiers are lost to Galba right from th e start. His entrance into the city is infaustus since it is accompanied by the massacre of thousands of defenseless soldiers (1.6.2). This deed will haunt Galba in his time of need, for during the coup he cannot place trust in his legioni classicae since it is still hostile about the murder of their comrades (1.31.2). Yet th is slaughter is not the only fit 18 Galbas stinginess not only loses the support of the troo ps, but also causes trouble away from Rome. At 1.65, because Galba is angry with Lyons, he divert s their money into the imperial treasury.
28 of violence from Galba. At 1.7 a string of execu tions is recorded which do not reflect well on Galba (caedes sinistre accepta ) and serve to intensify his unpopularity.19 Considering the precarious state of th e city and provinces, trouble was bound to occur. At 1.2.1, Tacitus introduces the time period as one abundant with disa sters, dreadful with battles, discordant with seditions, and fierce even in peace itself ( opimum casibus, atrox proeliis, discors seditionibus, ipsa etiam pace saevum ). Civil and foreign wars were raging, and so the soldiers played a key role in the state of the empire. At Rome there was an unaccustomed military force ( plena urbs exercitu insolito 1.6.2) comprised primarily of men assembled by Nero, and this force provided ingens novis rebus materia (1.6.2). In the provinces various troublesome situations were developing: Cluvius Rufus in Spain is bellis inexpertus (1.8.1), the Gallic people are upset for several reasons (including the rem oval of Verginius, their commander, to Rome, 1.8.2). Hordeonius Flaccus in Upper Germany is scorned for weakness while Vitellius in Lower Germany is new at his comma nd (1.9.1). Mucianus in Syria hol ds a notorious reputation, and Vespasian is fighting the Jewish war (1.10.1-3). Egypt prospered once Macer had been executed, but many other regions were influenced by the surrounding powers, while unarmed provinces were subjected and destined to become prizes to the strong ( inermes provinciae atque ipsa in primis Italia, cuicumque servitio ex posita, in pretium belli cessurae erant 1.11.3). The overall Roman condition was ripe for trouble, and Tacitus clearly confirms this fact. He closes this section of his work with a haunti ng ominous statement: this year fo r the state was nearly the last ( annumrei publicae prope supremum 1.11.3). One reason for the precarious condition of the empire stems from the type of men in control. While some are weak or inexperienced (Cluvius Rufus, Hordeonius Flaccus, and 19 Ash notes that Tacitus use of ablative absolutes in th e sections concerning the ma ssacre and executions makes it difficult to assign responsibility (1999.77). Galba is not fully at fault.
29 Vitellius), others are hungry fo r power. Nymphidius Sabinus, the prefect, attempts to win over the disgruntled soldiers and thus the empire, but is suppressed. Although Tacitus only devotes a few lines to the uprising of Nymphidius, 20 its impact and repercussions seem substantial. Even after the sou rce of defection is eliminated, the soldiers remain mindful of their situation and criticism of Galba grows strong (1.5.2). Events related at 1.7 ha ve a similar effect. Clodius Macer, the governor of Africa, and Fonteius Ca pito, governor of Lower Germany, who had been stirring up trouble in their respective provinces were executed by fellow officers. Even though Galba had not issued orders for their deaths, they added to his unpopularity ( ceterum utraque caedes sinistre accepta, et inviso semel prin cipi seu bene seu male facta parem invidiam adferebant 1.7.2). With such dislike for th eir current emperor, the sold iers try to raise a new one in Verginius. At 1.8.2, Verginius is said to have slowly abandoned Nero for Galba, perhaps because he had an eye on the imperium for himself. It was asserted ( conveniebat ) that his troops offered him power, but he then was recalled to Rome (1.8.2). Yet even there he was encouraged towards imperium by legates from the Illyrican legions (1.9.3). Verginius refuses, but he could have caused a mutiny of his own, had he wanted.21 Still, of all the men who cau se problems for Galba, Titus Vinius and Cornelius Laco top them all. In fact, Tacitus introduces them as Ga lbas destroyers, Vinius because he was such a despised villain and Laco because he was lazy (1.6.1). For Syme, Galba was powerless in the hands of his associates, and careless, so it seemed (1958.150). Galba is portrayed as being subjected to them and forced to bear them as a burden ( odio flagitiorum oneratum contemptu 20 Damon observes that T. reduces his (Nymphidius) story to a minimumPlutarch, by contrast, allots four substantial chapters ( G 8-9, 13-14)(2003.104). 21 Verginius later incurs violence for his refusal of power (2.49, 2.51, 2.68). In 2.68, Tacitus writes that no one was harassed by every sedition more often than Verginius: admiration and his fame remained, but they hated him because they were rejected by him ( nec quemquem saepius quam Verginium omnis seditio infestavit: manebat admiratio viri et fama, set oderant ut fastiditi 2.68.4). Possible reasons for Verginius refusal are given in 1.52.
30 inertiae, 1.6.1). Indeed, Tacitus shows these two sta nding on the shoulders of Galba and acting as the true power of the empire ( potentia principatus divisa in Titum Vinium consulem Cornelium Laconem praetorii praefectum 1.13.1). Along with the freedman Icelus, each fights for the upper hand (1.13.1-2). Laco and Icelus si de against Vinius when he nominates Otho (certainly not for self less reasons) for adoption (1.13.2). When giving advice during the coup against Galba, Laco threatens Vinius when he disa grees with his plan. Icel us eggs them on out of hatred for Vinius (1.33.2). The hostility of Laco against Vinius does not climax until 1.39. Here it is said ( dicitur ) that Laco thought about killing Vinius for various reasons, one of which was simply hate ( agitasse Lacode occiendo Tito Vinio 1.39.2). This is perhap s Lacos most active moment in all of the Histories Damon points out moments of deceit (at 1.14.1 Laco feigns unfamiliarity with Piso; at 1.39.2 he plots to kill Vinius ignaro Galba), and incompetence (at 1.24.2 Laco fails to notice Othos ploy; at 1.26.2, Laco makes light of rumors of mutiny; 2003.106-7). His laziness is only hint ed at once: at 1.19.2 Laco was to be sent as a legate to Germany, but he backs out. His impact in the Histories certainly takes a back seat to that of Vinius, as Tacitus reflects in th eir death notices. Vinius receives a full obituary coupled with but longer than Pisos. Laco gets a few short lines similar to and followed by that of the freedman Icelus. Vinius and the hatred against him occur rep eatedly in the text. We have already seen Lacos odium toward him, but at 1.12 the hate is more widespread. When all advisors are discussing candidates for adoption, hatred of Vi nius plays a role in their decisions. His unpopularity increases daily with his power ( etiam in Titi Vinii odium, qui in dies quanto potentior eodem actu invisior erat 1.12.3). The soldiers certainly have a strong dislike for him according to 1.34 and 1.39. In an attempt to pacify the mutinous troops, Piso is sent to the camp
31 because he is young, has a noble name, has recent favor, and he is an enemy of Vinius (1.34.1). At 1.39.2, Laco considers killing Vinius not only out of his own ma lice, but to appease the minds of the soldiers with his punishment (ut poena eius animos militum mulceret). There is yet a third reason given for Lacos thought of murder. Vinius was believed to have known about Othos plot ( conscium Othonis credebat, 1.39.2). He becomes especially su spect at 1.32.2 when he advises Galba to stay inside the palace during the c oup and wait for the mutiny to blow over. Damon comments: Vinius offers a bland rhetoric of unrealistic plans, inaccurate assessments, facile moral labels, and unlikely projections, all crouched in un-Tacitean parallel clauses. Given Othos haste, delay was an unpromising alternative. In this whole disingenuous speech, in fact, T. is laying the foundation for his claim that Vinius was alrea dy working for Otho. (2003.166)22 Comments made at Vinius time of death argue for his involvement in the coup. While being attacked, he yells that Otho had not ordered his death. Tacitus states that this is a confession of complicity ( conscientiam coniurationis confessus est ) because his life and reputation rather imply that he was aware of the evil of which he was a cause ( potius eius vita famaque inclinat, ut conscius sceleris fuerit cuius causa erat 1.42.1). Indeed, at 1.48.2-4 Tacitus paints an unfavorable portrait of Vinius vita famaque. He gives details of two counts of despicable behavior (punished by Caligula and Claudius), and caps them off by calling Vinius bold, sly, eager and, as his mind was inclined, corrupt or diligent, with the same vigor ( audax, callidus, promptus et, prout animum intendisset pravus aut industrius, eadem vi 1.48.4).23 22 Damon gives further evidence for Vinius being on Othos side: Vinius had originally suggested Otho for adoption (1.13.2), and he could expect nothing from Piso since Piso was infensus to him (1.34.1)(2003.186). 23 Damon calls this obituary blander than Pisos (2003.197), but asserts that it gives a more balanced assessment of Vinius than previous passages (2003.106). She notes pravus aut industrius, eadem vi as, an abrupt and enigmatic conclusion to the obituary, juxtaposing opposites (depravity ~ industry) and asserting a connection between them ( eadem ) (2003.198).
32 With Vinius and Laco calling the shots, Galb a and the empire were bound for ruin. Surely the damage would not have been so severe had Ga lba been more decisive and firm. Galba is not feared, and fear was traditionally perceived as a protective devise for rulers (Ash 1999.78). Galba gives way to others on several occasions. At 1.7.2, Tacitus hints that Galba has a natural inconsistency ( mobilitate ingenii ) when dealing with the executi ons of Macer and Capito. Other officers had made important decisions without co nsulting him, and he permits this behavior. A similar situation occurs at 1.19.2 when Galba is supposed to choose men for the embassy to Germany. He acted with disgraceful fickleness ( foeda inconstantia ) as he allowed men to go or stay as they preferred. Most d eadly to Galba was his lack of decisiveness at 1.34.1. After hearing from Vinius and Laco during the coup, he sides with the more attractive ( speciosiora ) advice, the more forceful personality, and picks Lacos plan As Galba discovers at 1.39.1, the best plan was the one not taken. Not only is Galba too infirm wh en dealing with others, he is ignarus In his speech to Piso, he thinks that his old age is the only offense laid against hi m, when in fact his charges are numerous (1.16.3). Ash notes that Galbas nave assertion that pe ople only criticize him because he is an old man exemplifies his failure as em peror to respond adequate ly to public opinion (1999.79). Galba seems to be blind to his situation, so when he is about to be killed, he is reported to have asked what he had done to deserve such evil ( quid mali meruisset 1.41.2). Galba is also blind to the faults of his friends ( si mali forent, usque ad culpam ignarus 1.49.3), and they were aware of this fact. At 1.12.3, Galbas friends feel free to act selfishly because they are dealing with a weak, gullible man ( infirmum et credulum ). Tacitus in fact uses the word ignarus three times to describe Galba: once at 1.49.3 mentioned above, once as Laco contemplates killing Vinius ( ignaro Galba 1.39.2), and once as the mutiny first begins ( ignarus
33 interim Galba 1.29.1) and Galba is sacrificing. In truth, Galba had plenty of signs that a coup was brewing, yet he ignored them. The turbulen t thunder and lightning duri ng his speech to the troops does not discourage Galba, w ho scorns such omens as chance ( contemptorem talium ut fortuitorum 1.18.1). At 1.27.1, the soothsayer speaks of bad omens, approaching treacheries, and a close enemy, but no reaction from Galba is recorded.24 Pagn writes, Given every sign by the weather and by the sacrifices, he stubbornly pro ceeds in ignorance of his own impending fate (2006.204). Even if Galba is so adverse to thes e types of signs, he still ignores the many indications of mutiny ( multa erumpentis seditionis indicia ) which come to him through rumor, simply because Laco makes light of them (1.26.2). Overall, Galba is constantly clueless about the situation surrounding him. As we have seen, there is a plethora of reas ons why Galba fails to wield imperial authority, and Tacitus weaves signals of Galbas faults throughout all of Book 1. He also supplies a convenient summary of Galbas fa ilings in Othos speech to the mutinous troops (1.37-8). Otho first speaks of Galbas bloody entrance into the city ( milia innocentissimorum militum trucidaverit, 1.37.2), and several executions (including t hose of Macer, Capito, and Nymphidius, 1.37.3), then he mentions saevitia avaritia and disciplinam (1.37.4). Nero makes a haunting appearance, then Icelus and Vinius are accused of their evils. The donative takes the climactic position at 1.37.5 ( donativo quod vobis numquam datur et cotidie exprobratur ). To begin 1.38.1, Otho attacks Piso, the strongest defense Galba had. Finally, Otho recalls the recent bad omens. Tacitus compiles all of Galbas failure here in two neat, compact chapters, preparing his readers for Galbas death just ahead (1.41). 24 As we will see in the next Chapter, Otho actually picks up on these omens and uses them to his benefit (1.27.1, 1.38.1).
34 Galbas obituary is much more forgiving, and Ta citus allows his reader to bid farewell to Galba with pity. He was happier under th e rule of others than in his own ( alieno imperio felicior quam suo, 1.49.2), and he was free from faults rather than possessing virtues ( magis extra vitia quam cum virtutibus, 1.49.2). Indeed Tacitus smooth es out Galbas faults here: avarus is softened by association with non adpetens and parcus (1.49.3). Details of his successful early career are inserted, and the negativity of his old age is cleared by coupling senior with iustitia (1.49.4). Tacitus lets Galba go gently, allowing him to disappear from the Histories with the famous line: maior privato visus dum privatus fuit, et omnium consensu capax imperii nisi imperasset (1.49.4). With Galba out of the way, Otho begins his own struggle for authority.
35 CHAPTER 3 THE AUTHORITY OF OTHO How Did Otho Become Emperor? Otho of course rose to power through his violent coup against Ga lba. His m eans of constructing the coup, however, and gaining enough strength to follo w it through, are various and complex. To simplify, Otho acquires imperium by being the antithesis of Galba. Otho reaches out to the common soldiery, plots carefu lly against his opponents, takes heed of omens, offers praise, and permits flattery. Galba hardly enjoys center stage before his successor appears.1 During the discussion over adoption, Vinius supports Marcus Otho, while Laco and Icelus prefer any one but Otho. Vinius, of course, acts out of his own self interest. A friendship already exists between the two, and rumors begin to connect them through marriage, since Otho is a bachelor and Vinius has an unmarried daughter ( et rumoribus nihil silentio transmitte ntium, quia Vinio vidua filia, caelebs Otho, gener ac socer destinabantur 1.13.2). Galba knew of their relationship and took precaution for the state. He knew Otho was like Nero and that the republic had been transferred from Nero in vain, if it were to be left in the hands of Otho ( frustra a Nerone translatae si apud Othonem relinqueretur 1.13.2).2 Tacitus very appropriately uses this compelling sentence to open his character description of Otho, since Otho s Neronian features will haunt him throughout the Histories In the past Otho had been negligent ( incuriose ), insolent ( petulanter ), and agreeable to Nero by his emulation of sumptuousness ( gratus Neroni aemulatione luxus, 1.13.3). 1 The same can be said of Otho. After Galbas obituary at 1.49, Vitellius comes on the scene at 1.50. As soon as Otho eliminates one opponent, he has to deal with another. 2 For once Galba is not so ignarus ( neque erat Galbae ignota 1.13) about the present situation. He knows Otho is a bad choice, and so moves on to Piso. Ironically, his moment of perception leads to a decision that will hasten his ruin.
36 Nero thus had entrusted Otho with Poppaea Sa bina, even though he knew of Othos lusts ( apud conscium libidinum, 1.13.3), and when an affair was suspected between the two, Otho was sent away to Lusitania as governor. He ruled agreeably ( comiter ), but joined Galbas cause at first chance. On Galbas behalf, he was nec segnis but inter praesentis splendissimus (1.13.4). Because of his alacrity in supporting Galba, h aving immediately conceived a hope of adoption, he grasped at it more fiercely every day ( spem adoptionis statim c onceptam acrius in dies rapiebat, 1.13.4). Because of his connection with Ner o, Otho knew he could count on a majority of the troops and Neros circle for support ( faventibus plerisque militum, prona in eum aula Neronis ut similem 1.13.4). Within this character sketch, Otho moves from being a suggestion on Vinius lips and a worry on Galbas mind to an imperial threat concei ving his first thought of revolt. Tacitus allows Otho to linger in the sh adows while Galba adopts Piso. When Otho reemerges, he dominates every chapter ther eafter. Throughout 1.21-6 Tacitus focuses on the origins of Othos coup (Damon 2003.126), using 1.21 specifically to introduce the repercussions of the adoption and Othos personal motiva tions (Damon 2003.147). Again Otho changes, this time from anxiously considering a plot against the emperor to boldly convincing himself of his need to betray Galba. He knows he cannot benefit from an orderly situation ( cui compositis rebus nulla spes, 1.21.1), nor from Piso, who is fierce by nature and sa vage from his long exile ( ingenio trucem et longo exilio efferatum, 1.21.1). His hate for the young heir and the old man grows ( in Galbam ira, in Pisonem invidia, 1.21.1), as well as his fear s of another exile. He concludes that he should be bol d and act, while Galbas authority was frail and Pisos had not yet coalesced ( proinde agendum audendumque, dum Galbae auctoritas fluxa, Pisonis nondum coaluisset, 1.21.2). His worries of death motivate him perhaps the most, and this chapter ends
37 with grim meditations: Death by na ture is equal for everyoneit is the duty of a more vigorous man to deserve to die ( mortem omnibus ex natura aequalema crioris viri esse merito perire, 1.21.2).3 With Othos thoughts seething with revolt, his associates add their own encouragement at 1.22. Otho consults with some very lowly char acters, namely his freedmen and slaves, who acted more corruptly than was suitable in a private home ( corruptius quam in privato domo habiti, 1.22.1), and astrologers, a group of men untrust worthy to the powerful, deceitful to the hopeful, which will always be both forbidden and retained in our city ( genus hominum potentibus infidum, sperantibus falla x, quod in civitate nostra et ve tabitur semper et retinebitur, 1.22.1). The former tempt Otho with Neros extravag ant lifestyle, displayi ng them as his own ( ut sua ostentantes, 1.22.1). Indeed, Othos excessive lifestyle is described as oppressive even for an emperor, hardly to be endured with the need of a private citizen ( etiam principi onerosa, inopia vix privato toleranda, 1.21.1). Otho needs to gain the imperial purse if he is to satisfy his desires and truly live up to Neros lifestyle The astrologers feed his hunger for power by assuring him of favorable omens ( novos motus et clarum Othoni annum observatione siderum adfirmant, 1.22.1). One particular astrol oger named Ptolemy directly foretells his rise to emperorship ( persuaserat fore ut in imperium adscisceretur, 1.22.2) and Otho fully believes him ( Otho tamquam peritia et monitu fatorum praedicta accipiebat, 1.22.3 ). Again, Otho is the antithesis of Galba. While Galba believes too lit tle in omens, Otho believes too much. Both are victims of their excess. With support from such vile characters, Otho is ready to plan a coup. 3 Damon points out that compared to other sources, T. alone has the internal deliberations with which Otho goads himself to his flagitiosissimum facinus (ch. 21; cf. 2.50.1) and the moral censure for Othos associates (ch. 22) (2003.148).
38 Tacitus devotes the next four chapters to describing how Otho prepares for the coup. His main strategy is mentioned at the beginning of 1.23: Otho tries to wi n popularity with the soldiers ( studia militum adfectaverat ). He makes appearances in front of the soldiers ( in itinere, in agmine, in stationibus), engages in camaraderie with some ( vetustissimum quemque militum nomine vocans ac memoria Neroniani comitatus contubernalis appellando ), offers others financial help ( pecunia aut gratia iuvare ), and spreads discontentment against Galba by dropping his own complains about him ( inserendo saepius querelas et ambiguos de Galba sermones quaeque alia turbamenta vulgi, 1.23.1). The soldiers themselves are tired and complain of long marches, sparse supplies, and harsh discipline (1.23.2). The next chapter makes their a ggravation blatantly apparent ( flagrantibus iam militum animis, 1.24.1), and the time is ripe for Maevius P udens to act on their grievances on Othos behalf. Otho and Pudens especially seek out those fickle by nature, in need of money, or geared towards disturbances ( mobilissimum quemque ingenio aut pecuniae indigum et in novas cupiditates praecipitem, 1.24.1); however, those in need of money seem to be the prime target. Otho has Pudens distribute money to men on guard ( cohorti excubias agenti viritim centenos nummos divideret, 1.24.1) as well as secret gifts ( secretoribus apud singulos praemiis, 1.24.2 ). A specific example is even given: Cocceius Proc ulus was disputing property boundaries with his neighbor, so Otho bought the neighbors property and gave it over to Proculus (1.24.2).4 The next chapter continues in the same vein. Otho depends on another man, Onomastus, to work his crime. He seeks out men who are callidi and audaces (Barbuius Proculus and Veturius) and gives them rewards, promises and money ( pretio et promissis onerat, data pecunia, 1.25.1). In the second half of 1.25, Othos pl ot expands drastically. Some are tempted 4 Damon notes that bribes towards praetorians were rare (2003.153), but for Otho they seem numerous and generous.
39 by the money, while others are stirred to fear by mention of their previous association with Nymphidius, to anger about the missing donative, to a longing for Nero and their earlier license, and to anxiety about a possible change of servic e. Few are admitted into knowledge of the deed, ( in conscientiam facinoris pauci asciti, 1.25.2) but many are roused to restlessness. At this point, all the characters driving Othos plot are lowly. In addition to the freedmen, slaves, and astrologers from 1.22, Mavius Pudens is a friend of the notorious Tigellinus ( e proximis Tigellini 1.24.1), and Onomastus is a freedma n. Barbius and Veturius, two common soldiers ( duo manipulares, 1.25.1) are given the most credit, sinc e Tacitus attributes the transfer of imperium to them ( suscepere duo manipulares imperium populi Romani transferendum et transtulerunt, 1.25.1). Other soldiers become involved thr ough bribery or fear. Damon raises an interesting point by asking which soldiers are particularly being targeted by Otho: Throughout chh.23-5 Otho seems to be dealing with praet oriansbut no source incl udes praetorians on Galbas march to Rome (2003.152). Tacitus does not specify, but leaves the impression that these are just ordinary troops, average men w ho are worried about money and their jobs as soldiers. These men, together with the v ile characters above, cause Otho to win imperium They are the very men that Galba neglected, a nd by winning them over, Otho secures power. Tacitus does specify additional targets of the treacherous infection ( tabes ): the legions and auxiliaries are put on edge by Othos plotting and by news of revolt in Germany. With so much restlessness in the city, sedition now seems proba ble in Rome. Tacitus writes indeed rebellion was ready among the wicked, and there wa s dissimilation even among the loyal ( adeoque parata apud malos seditio, etiam apud interos dissimulatio fuit 1.26.1). Otho would have been raised to imperium on January 14, but various factors delayed the plot. It is feared that in the night the troops might mi stake the wrong man for Otho, since many do not know him
40 ( ignorantibus plerisque ), and the men were drinking ( nec facilem inter temulentos consensum 1.26.1). This reinforces the thought that Otho was to be hailed as emperor by a flock of ordinary soldiers. Because of general disorganizat ion, the revolt is postponed to January 15. According to Damon,the beginning of Galb as end starts at 1.27 (2003.156). Otho, who earlier placed so much hope in his astrologers, now considers Galbas bad omens as favorable omens for himself ( Othoneidque ut laetum e contrario et suis cogitationibus prosperum interpretante 1.27.1). After Onomastus arrives at his side, Otho slyly excuses himself from Galbas presence, and near the temple of Saturn is hailed as emperor by a scant twenty-three speculatores Even Otho himself is startled by the small number ( paucitate salutantium trepidum, 1.27.2), but others join the party as it moves. Again, so me share in the plot ( alii conscientia ), but many join the revolt out of awe ( plerique miraculo ), a phenomenon which greatly aided the success of th e revolt (1.27.2). Even officers are swayed by their fear, as exemplified at 1.28. Julius Martialis, a tribune, is so terrified that he feigns complicity ( praebuit plerisque suspicionem conscientiae, 1.28.1). Other tribunes and centurion s also prefer to join the mutiny instead of following honor ( anteposuerepraesentia dubiis et honestis, 1.28.1). Othos tiny twenty three-man coup quickly snowballs into a full-blown rebellion, primarily because of fear. Tacitus writes: such was the state of thei r minds that a few dared the vilest deed, many desired it, but everyone permitted it ( isque habitus animorum fuit ut pessimum facinus auderent pauci, plures vellent, omnes paterentur 1.28.1). Otho briefly leaves center stage as Tacitus records the reactions of Galba and Piso to this coup, but Otho returns again at 1.36.1. The feelings of the troops are no longer in doubt (haud dubiae iam in castris omnium mentes ); they change from anxious to certain. Now that Otho has Romes attention, he has to find a way to hold it. He does this through flattery and praise. He is
41 the antithesis of Galba and give s the soldiers what they have long been craving: attention. A statue of Galba is knocked down as the troops raise Otho onto its platform. Once again, Othos main support comes from the common soldiery ( gregarius miles caveri insuper praepositos iubebat, 1.36.2).5 Their enthusiasm is great, unlike th e sluggish fawning usually given by the populus ( non tamquam in populo ac plebe, variis segni adul atione vocibus, 1.36.2), the soldiers celebrate whole-heartedly, embracing and repeat ing the oath. Otho encourages their spirit: stretching out his hands to pay homage to the crowd, to throw ki sses and to play the slave in every way for domination ( protendens manus adorare vulgum, ia cere oscula et omnia serviliter pro dominatione, 1.36.3). The flattery of commander and sold ier reflect each other, and Tacitus emphasizes the mutuality. He leads the excitement with the phrase exhortatione mutua ,6 then writes they commend now the emperor to the sold iers, now the soldiers to the emperor ( modo imperatorem militibus, modo m ilites imperatori commendare, 1.36.2). Otho has taken a spark of enthusiasm from the soldiers and turned it into an inferno by feeding in his own flattery. The excitement culminates with Othos speech that recapitulates hi s rise to power. He associates with the soldiers, slanders Galba, and offers praise. Otho ope ns by pointing out that both he and the troops have an uncer tain status: they may be enemies of the state. Then he says, indeed, it is clear that we can neithe r die nor be safe except together ( adeo manifestum est neque perire nos neque salvos esse nisi una posse 1.37.2). Having tightly bonded himself to the soldiers, he reveals Galbas rift with them by recalling the soldiers murdered upon Galbas entrance to the city. Otho then proceeds to list each of Galbas mistakes: the officers he executed, 5 Although the tribunes and centurions in fear gave up th eir loyalty to Galba at 1.28, the common soldiers recall the support the officers showed Galba at 1.18, and therefore do not trust their loyalty to Otho. Damon discusses this, and adds that the use of iubebat here suggests the soldiers were now acting the commanders part (2003.174). Roles are reversed in the chaos of the coup. 6 Of this phrase, Damon writes, these soldiers, instead of being exhorted by their leader, are exhorting one another, another indication that they have taken command of the situation (2003.175).
42 his harsh discipline and greed, his villainous associates Icelus and Vinius, the missing donative, his hopeless adoption with a stern heir, and the ill omens which signifi ed it. In case the listeners are not yet convinced of their choice of emperor, Otho seals the deal with more encouragement. They must support him, for the senate and the people agree, and their strength is expected ( idem senatus, idem populi Romani animus est: vestra virtus expectatur, 1.38.1). He assures them that his men are detaining Galba, and once they act, th eir deed will be praised. In a chaotic rush, the common soldiery again makes the move and thro ws off all command: with none of the tribunes or centurions exhorting, each man was the leader and commander for himself ( nullo tribunorum centurionumve adhortante, sibi quisque dux et instigator, 1.38.3). Galba, of course, is killed shortly thereafter by the violent crowd of a ngry soldiers. This is how Otho becomes emperor. How Does Otho Strive to Maintain Authority? Having gained imperium Otho needs to find a way to m aintain it. He must solidify his authority as soon as possible. Alt hough Galba is dead, Otho realizes th at he is not yet in control. At 1.45.2, the crowd is still restless and eager from the coup, and as they demand death for Marcus Celsus, Otho knows the authority to prohibit the crime wa s not yet Othos ( Othoni nondum auctoritas inerat ad prohibendum scelus ). So instead he plays along with the mob and proclaims that Celsus will be punished. Immedi ately after recounting this incident, Tacitus begins 1.46 by writing everything thereafter was done by the arbitratio of the soldiers (omnia dein arbitrio militum acta ). Indeed, the gregarius miles demand change concerning vacationes, and Otho sees to their satisfaction (1.46.2). According to As h, unlike Galba, Otho is a product of his times and knows how to win over his soldiers by a variety of method s, including bribery (1999.30). He had obtained imperium by pleasing the ordinary sold ier, and their happiness with him would have to continue if he wanted to keep it.
43 It is therefore surprising that Othos generosity is not more frequently attested. His openhandedness is mentioned only five times, and on most of these occasions his gifts are just empty gestures. As we have seen, 1.46 records his handling of vacationes for the common soldiers, and Otho handles the situation in a way which is equally beneficial for the centurions. His next gesture towards the troops does not occur until 1.82, after the mutiny at the palace. Perhaps this gift would have never been given had it not been for the soldierys vi olent mistake. Otho knows he needs to dispense money if he is to enter the camp and set things right again ( quinta milia nummum singulis militibus numeraren tur: tum Otho ingredi castra ausus 1.82.3). After this, Othos next and final major donati on to the troops comes at 1.90, the very last chapter of Book 1. Before leaving Rome for war with Vitellius, to all senators who had been exiled under Nero and restored under Galba he gave back as much of each mans property as he found unsold (Damon 2003.288). However, although the gesture looked generous, it was in fact useless ( iustissimum donum et in speciem magnificum, sed fest inata iam pridem exactione usu sterile 1.90.1). The only other generosity worth mentioning is not directed at the soldiers at all. At 1.77, Otho distributes some offices to some old men and youths, and restores a few others to senatorial rank. Following these deeds, Otho attempts to win over the provinces eadem largitione He sends more people to some colonies, he gives out citizenship, and he constructs some new constitutions, but Tacitus remarks that these were meant more for display than for lasting results ( ostentata magis quam mansura 1.78.1). Otho is, however, generous with his words. As we have seen already in the forum scene at 1.36, Otho loves to give and receiv e flattery and praise. His spee ch at 1.83-4 reeks of it. He begins: neque adfectus vestros in amorem mei accenderem, commilitones, neque ut animum ad virtutem cohortaret (utraque enim egregi e supersunt), sed veni postulaturus a vobis
44 temperamentum vestrae fortitudinis et erga me modum caritatisnimia pietas vestra acrius quam considerate excitavit. (1.83.2) I have not come so that I might incite your affections into love for me, comrades, nor so that I might rouse your spirit to virtue (for both attributes exist in remarkable abundance), but I have come to request from you modera tion of your courage and a limit of your love towards meyour excessive loyalty stirred you to act fiercely rather than cautiously. Where one might expect Otho to admonish the troops for their mutinous conduct, he instead thanks them for excessive virtue. His entire sp eech employs a gentle tone, and by the end he directs favor also towards the senate. Otho concl udes with exaggerated rh etoric about the value of one of his partys assets, the senat e (Damon 2003.266-7). He recalls the bodys noble beginnings from the founding and its continuity through the kings and into the principate, and then adds just as senators originate from you, thus emperors originate from senators ( ut ex vobis senatores, ita ex senatoribus principes nascuntur 1.84.4). Praise of this aspect of the Roman system seems quite unnecessary given the true purpose of the speech, and Damon points out the irrelevance of the senate to a power struggle based on military might (2003.267). No one seems to mind, and the oratio is grate accepta (1.85.1). The senate knows to return the favor to Otho, and at 1.85.3 they acknowledge that Otho recognizes flattery ( privato Othoni nuper atque eadem dicenti nota adulatio ). They speak little of their true thoughts, but instead alter their words according to the moment, twisting and turning their opinions this way and that. Their behavior at 1.47.1 is similar if not worse. With Otho fresh to the principate, magistrate s contend with flattery ( certant adulationibus ceteri magistratus, adcurrunt patres ), and Otho is granted his list of titles. With flattery playing a large role in their communication, Othos relationship w ith the senate is certainly not healthy for the state.
45 Nevertheless, the emperor who gives flattery r eceives it in return, however false it may be. Crowds tend to reflect the emotion offered to them.7 Preparing to leave Rome, Otho extols the majesty of the city and the unanimity of the people and senate on his behalf ( maiestatem urbis et consensum populi ac senatus pro se attollens 1.90.2). The response of praise is magnified many times over, but is entirely fake: clamor vocesque vulgi ex more adulandi nimi ae et falsae: quasi dictatorem Caesarem aut imperatorem Augustum prosequerentur, ita studiis votisque cert abant, nec metu nec amore, sed ex libidine servitii: ut in familiis, privata cuique stimulatio, et vile iam decus publicum. (1.90.3) The shouts and voices of the crowd were excessive and false out of habit for flattering: just as if they were following the dictator Caesar or the emperor Augustus, thus they contended with enthusiasm and vows, not out of fear or love, but out of th eir desire of servitude: as in a household of slaves, for each man the motivation was private, and now the public honor was cheap. This closing statement no doubt causes the reader to shudder at the condition of Othos reign so far, and dread what lies ahead in Book 2. His auth ority may appear to sit steady for now, but it is built on a foundation of twigs. What Authority Does Otho Manage to Gain? Perhaps Othos association with Nero earns him a bit more authority. Upon his first appearance in the text at 1.13, his ties to Nero are made absolutely clear. Both were extravagant, lustful creatures. Otho uses this similarity to wi n over the people. Nero was missed and still dear to some (1.4-8), so Otho tries to make his rise to power resemble a return of Nero.8 At 1.78.2, it was believed that he even thought about celebra ting the memory of Nero with the hope of 7 Note also that when Galba gives a dry, impersonal speech to the troops at 1.18, he gets only some cheers, but many blank, silent stares. 8 Indeed, at 1.76, one of Neros freedmen in Africa celebrates as if his old master had come back to life to rule Rome once again.
46 winning over the multitude ( creditus est etiam de celebranda Neronis memoria agitavisse spe vulgum adliciendi ). He had statues of Poppaea raised by decree of the senate, and some raised statues of Nero as well. The soldiers eventually began to call him Nero Otho on certain days. It seems this may have been more than Otho bargaine d for, as he himself held this in uncertainty, out of fear of rejecting it or the shame of acknowledging it ( ipse in suspenso tenuit, vetandi metu vel agnoscendi pudore 1.78.2). As Haynes points out, O thowill allow his Neronian features to be recognized, but only passivelyhe recognizes the strength he derives from allowing himself to be molded by public desire (2003.46-7). He only hopes th at this association will not backfire. Nero was notorious for his extravagances, and several times Othos lust for luxury generates fear and nega tivity (1.50, 1.71, 2.31). This observat ion could be dangerous, so Otho has to evoke Nero without having anythi ng to do with Nero (Haynes 2003.56). He seems to have struck the balance: by 2.11.1, soldiers who had been loyal to Nero transfer their devotion over to Otho during the war. In what initially seems like one of his digr essions, however, Tacitu s tells about a false Nero who arose in Achaia and Asia and bega n gathering followers. Many were aroused by the famous name coupled with their desire for revol t and their hate of the present situation (2.8.2). The fact that this fellow gained more fame day by day (gliscentem in dies famam 2.8.2) may attest to the charm Neros re pute still had over the people. Ye t Ash demonstrates that this episode captures the uncertainty of the times and shows how easily new challengers could be disgorged at any time around the empire (2007.96). In this respect, Othos authority appears unstable and vulnerable even to the meanest pretenders. Otho establishes authority best when forging political allian ces. He seeks out men who can secure favor for him, and uses them accordingly. He recognizes Marcus Celsus as an opportunity
47 to show clemency, so he reconciles with him, keeps him among his friends, and eventually places him among his leaders. Celsus not only offe rs Otho loyalty, but he garners favor from the chief men of the state, the multitude, and the sold iers (1.71.3). Otho uses Verginius in a similar way. He grants him the consulship for a few mont hs to provide some consolation to the German army (ut aliquod exercitui Germanico delenimentum 1.77.2). Indeed, it was not uncommon for him to use popular figures and politi cal alliances to secure peoples and regions. For example, the distant provinces remain loyal to Otho not because of enthusiasm for him, but because the city and senate are on his side (1.76.2). Vespasian and Mucianus keep th e East in allegiance to Otho, and Carthage leads Africa in fidelity towa rds him (1.76.2-3). Perhaps the most egregious example of Othos habit of using others for hi s own benefit occurs at 1.79. When the Roman soldiers successfully defeat the troublesome Rhoxolani, Otho happily rewards the governor and commanders, but also sees a chance to glorify himself ( laeto Othone et gloriam in se trahente tamquam et ipse felix bello 1.79.5). Othos stability does not rest entirely on the shoulders of others. At times, Tacitus admits his ability to keep imperial order is adequate. He puts aside his lustful behavior and handles all matters with the propriety of the imperial office ( dilatae voluptates, dissim ulta luxuria et cuncta ad decorem imperii composita 1.71.1). Yet his capacity to behave in such a way surprises everyone ( contra spem omnium ), and causes them only to fear the eventual reemergence of his vices ( eoque plus formidinis adferebant fa lsae virtutes et vitia reditura 1.71.1). A similar glimmer of imperial responsibility tainted with dishonor appears at 1.77: Otho attended to the imperial duties as if in much peace, some things being done outside of th e dignity of the state, and many things being done against deco rum by hurrying on out of present need ( Otho ut in multa pace munia imperii obibat, quaedam ex dignitate rei pub licae, pleraque contra decus ex
48 praesenti usu properando 1.77.1). Otho gains some authority, but still falters in keeping adequate control of the imperium What Causes Othos Authority to Become Unstable? Thus far we have seen a few m inor warning si gns of unstable authority: Otho has a lust for luxury which sometimes distracts him and worries th e state; he caters to hi s soldiers every wish; he engages in false flattery a nd accepts it in return. What real ly causes Othos authority to become unstable is a broken hierarchy of command. The soldiers excessively admire Otho, but they distrust his officers. Ash aptly asserts, O tho will stir such loyalty amongst his troops that intermediate commanders will have enormous trouble asserting their authority (1999.93). Ultimately, Otho falls victim to a dysfunctional chain of command. Othos authority remains relativ ely intact until 1.80, when he experiences his first major upset. A simple misunderstanding turns into a mutiny that nearly destroys the city ( orta seditio prope urbi excidio fuit 1.80.1). Varius Crispinus, a praetorian tribune, begins loading weapons from the armory into wagons to prepare the sevent eenth cohort for a move from Ostia to the city. Because he decides to do this at night, the sold iers suspect him of treachery and begin an uproar. Drunk and eager for their weapons ( inter temulentos arma cupidinem sui movere 1.80.1), the soldiers get out of hand and begin to make accu sations: the tribunes and centurions are charged with betrayal, and the senators are accused of making an attempt on Othos life (1.80.2). The soldiers are motivated by ignorance, drunkenness, the desire to loot, and readiness for revolt ( pars ignari et vino graves, pessimus quisque in occasionem praedarum, vulgus, ut mos est, cuiuscumque motus novi cupidium 1.80.2). Their distrust of the o fficers is clear: they kill a tribune and centurion, then hurry off to the Pa latine. As Ash points out, the Othonians are prepared to by-pass their superior s violently in favor of direct contact with their emperor:
49 already, the command structure has broken down in a dangerous and perhaps irreversible way (1999.30). With this mutiny, Otho s hierarchy problems begin. With the soldiers on the rampage, the nobil ity and officers abandon Otho in his time of need. The troops break into the palace during a banquet and the guests contemplate flight. They are revealed as cowards ( modo constantiam simulare, modo formidine detegi 1.81.1), and watching Othos face they ar e struck with fear (simul Othonis vultum intueritimebatur 1.81.1). The magistrates throw away their insignias ( magistratus proiectis insignibus, 1.81.2), flee throughout the city, and hide in th e most obscure places possible. A few men stand their ground but are injured in the onrush (1.82.1). The soldiers demand to see Otho, and his appeals instantly end the seditio Yet Otho is in no way authoritative or dignified, and he has to stand on his couch in te ars and beg his soldiers to stop (1.82.1). Tacitus conveys the swiftness of their re sponse to his entreaties by repor ting in the same sentence their return to the camp. The various reactions to this mutiny reinforce the characters of each group: the people hide in their homes, the soldiers ar e ashamed for their behavior, Ot ho timidly enters the camp only after money is promised, and the leading men again abandon Otho by tearing away their insignias and denouncing their positions. The so ldiers act on their own accord and demand punishment for the auctores seditionis To handle the situation, Otho atte mpts to exert his authority through another speech to his soldiers. It is stated directly at 1.83.1 th at Othos power resided in solicitation ( pluresambtioso imperio laeti ). Before beginning his speech, Otho ponders about his imperium and how to maintain it: it is not possible to retain a principate sought through wickedness with sudden discipline and outdated gravity ( non posse principatum scelere quaesitum subita modesta et
50 prisca gravitate retineri 1.83.1). For Manolaraki this meditati on is critical: Otho knows that he himself engaged in mutiny in order to gain power and to a certain extent his civil war with Vitellius can be considered mutiny as well. Otho is himself just such a mutineer as those he is now attempting to control (2003.66). Therefore, in tone and demeanor he must walk a fine line. Damon notes, Otho wont make Galbas mistak e of attempting to impose an old-fashioned virtue (226), but to his detrimen t, he falls to the opposite extreme. He praises the troops for their excessive loyalty to him, and in th e end he only punishes a few men ( paucorum culpa fuit, duorum poena erit, 1.84.2; neque enim in pluris quam in duos animadverti iusserat 1.85.1). He tells the soldiers not to question their superiors an d to simply follow orders: the authority of the leaders and the rigor of discipline maintains itself such, that often it is expedient even for centurions and tribunes only to take orders. If it is permitted for individuals to ask why they are ordered, once obedience is dest royed, command also perishes ( ita se ducum auctoritas, sic rigor disciplinae habet, ut multa e tiam centuriones tribunosque tant um iuberi expediat. Si cur iubeantur quaerere singulis liceat, pe reunte obsequio etiam imperium intercidit 1.83.3). Otho really harps on this subject, and he makes a similar comment later in this same speech: military matters are upheld by obedience, comrades, rath er than by questioning the commands of the leaders, and the army which is th e most orderly before a crisis is strongest in the crisis itself ( parendo potius, commilitones, quam imperia ducum sciscitando res militares continentur, et fortissimus in ipso discrimine exercitu s est qui ante discrimen quietissimus 1.84.2). Concerning the overall effects of the speec h, Damon comments, Othos word s ring hollow because of their failure to reflect the inevitabl e collapse of discipline (2003.267). Whereas Otho successfully uses a speech at 1.37-8 to gain authority, the spe ech meant to maintain it utterly fails. Otho may see the weakness in his imperium but he cannot prevent it fro m destroying his authority.
51 Othos speech acts only as a temporary fix, a nd as Book 1 comes to a close, the city is restless ( oratio apta ad perstringendos mulcendosque militum animoscompositique ad praesens qui coerceri non poterant. non tamen quies urbi redierat 1.85.1). The soldiers continue to suspect their superiors ( maligna cura in omnis, quos nobili tas aut opes aut aliqua insignis claritudo rumoribus obiecerat 1.85.1), and the senate contin ues its flattery (1.85.3). Most importantly, Otho begins to share his authority with some unsavory characters. Although he appoints good men like Suetonius Paulinus, Marius Celsus, and Annius Gallus as commanders, most of his trust is placed in Licinius Proculus, prefect of the praetorian guard ( plurima fides Licinio Proculo 1.87.2). This sly fellow slande rs his colleagues to gain importance for himself: He was energetic with the city soldiery, but unaccustomed to war, and by accusing the qualities of each, the authority of Paulinus, the vigor of Celsus, and the expe rience of Gallus, he did what was quite easy to do: as the small, clever man he surpassed the good and modest men ( is urbanae militiae impiger, bellorum insolens, aucto ritatem Paulini, vigorem Celsi, maturitatem Galli, ut cuique erat, criminando, quod facillimum factu est, parvus et callidus bonos et modestos anteibat 1.87.2). As Othos reign advances, bad men gain more power as the good men lose it. Indeed, the last sentence of Book 1 indicates that Otho leaves th e city in the hands of his brother Titianus (1.90.3). As Book 2 will prove, Titianus is in no way an adequate leader. Book 2 begins with a focus on the East and Vespasian, and Otho is not seen again until 2.11. Tacitus writes that fortune shined on his undertakings ( blandiebatur coeptis fortuna 2.12.1), but shortly thereafter, mo re incompetent Othonian commanders are introduced: Pacensis was chained by his mutinous men, Novello had no authority, and Clemens was ruling for popularity, did not enforce discipline and was greedy for battle (2.12.1).
52 Otho himself does not appear often in Book 2, and with matters given over to such powerless leaders, it does not take long for the troops to adopt a mind of their own. They devastate, loot, and burn as if Italy were some foreign land (2. 12.2), and they terrorize innocent people (2.13.1). When audacious soldiers are combined with commanders of questionable authority, the Othonians begin their downward spiral. The first incident of this nature occu rs at 2.18. Spurinna holds his men inside the fortifications at Placentia as they anticipate C aecinas approach. The sold iers wish to fight, so they grab their equipment, threaten the officers, suspect treachery agains t Otho, and set out from Placentia in search of action (2.18.2). Ash identifies this mutiny as a crucial yardstick of the troops growing loyalty for him. Fearing treachery against their emperor, they are willing to revolt against their commanders (1999.32). Spurinna is not able to keep order, so he plays along instead. When the men realize how vulnerable they are in the open, the centurions and tribunes point out the logic of Spurinnas plan of staying at Placentia. Then Spurinna himself, rather than reproaching his men, explains his strategy (2.19.2). Ash comments that Spurinna, lik e Otho, is prudent about dispensing discipline, and the fact that he must explain himself shows his fragile auctoritas (2007.128). As Otho emphasized in his speech at 1.83, soldiers need not know their commanders every thought, but they should follow orders without question. This ideal of Othos is achieved neither here with Spurinna, nor anywhere else in Book 2. Having satisfied their impetuous taste for action and realizing their folly, the men return to base. They are now less mutinous an d more receptive of orders ( minus turbidos et imperia accipientis, 2.19.2). Courage runs high in the soldiers, bu t their obedience needs to be reinforced (2.19.2).
53 Spurinnas situation may have been reso lved without much harm done, but soon the soldiers become more anxious, suspicious, and unrestrained. The commanders lose more authority, and Otho places more trust in the bad than in the good. A nnius Gallus tries to bring aid to Spurinna at Placentia when his men, out of a desire to fight, progress towards mutiny ( usque ad seditionem 2.23.2). Gallus is able to somehow stop th em, but Tacitus does not tell us how. Such a brief, vague description of a (hardly) mutinous episode seems almost unnecessary, unless it is meant to presage and thus em phasize Macers subsequent ordeal. Although Macer is somewhat successful near Cr emona, he prevents his men from pursuing the retreating Vitellians in case reinforcements arrive. The scene shows many characteristics of Othos ruin: the commanders try to control their eager troops ( repressus vincentium impetus ), while the troops suspect and question their commanders ( suspectum id Othonianis fuit, omnia ducum facta prave aestimantibus ). Once the commanders are accused, sedition is attempted both openly and secretly. Otho gives ear to the lowly and fears the respectable (2.23.3-5). The Othonian hierarchy quickly crumbles. Suetonius Paulinus deals with a similar situ ation at 2.26. He destroys and routs Caecinas men, then signals his troops to stay back. Like Macer, he fears Vitellian reinforcements will arrive and defeat his tired soldiers. Some say that Caecina could have been crushed completely if Paulinus had not held back (ut deleri cum universo exercitu Caecinam potuisse, ni Suetonius Paulinus receptui cecinisset utrisque in partibus percrebuerit, 2.26.2), and this caused negative gossip among the multitude ( in vulgus adverso rumore fuit 2.26.2). Although the army of Vite llius falls outside the scope of this study, the Vitellians play a role in the events of Othos attempt to maintain authority. In addition to Suetonius problems, the beginning of 2.26 mentions the mutiny of those le ft in the Vitellian camp, and the imprisonment
54 of two brothers, one in each camp, on charges of treachery (2.26.1). Caeci na accuses his men of being prepared for mutiny rather than battle (2.27.1). Then in a flashback, Tacitus narrates an earlier mutiny against Valens. This na rration carries through 2.29, and shares many characteristics with the Othonian disturbances, including bold soldiers (2.27.2) who criticize their commander (2.28) and attack him (2.29). In the end, the soldiers regret their actions and become obedient (2.29.2). The commander does not engage in much discipline, but plays along with the troops (2.29.3). This chaotic epis ode, placed among the Othonian difficulties, emphasizes the idea of the turbulent commander/so ldier relationship, and increases the intensity of the surrounding narratives. T hough Tacitus says he delayed his account of the mutiny against Valens lest he interrupt the order of Caecinas situation ( 2.27.2), he no doubt realized the compound effect he would create by positioning it among such military disorder. 9 When focus returns to the Othonians, strife is growi ng rapidly among the commanders. Suetonius Paulinus, because he was the most experienced in military affairs, offers his strategic advice and recommends delay for Othos men. Celsus and Gallus agree with him (2.33.1), but Otho, Titianus, and Proculus are impatient for bat tle. The two latter men resort to flattery (in adulationem concesserant 2.33.1), and Paulinus and Celsus ar e thereafter afraid to assert themselves. Otho takes the advice of his brother and Proculus ( deterioris consilii auctores 2.33.2) and retires to Brixellum, diminishing the sp irit of the troops as a result. The drop in morale shows how attached the Othonians have grown to their emperor, but this deep affection alone does not destroy them. According to Ash, what proves deadly is the fact that it is combined with a deep hatred of their officer s (1999.33). In one powerful statement, Tacitus 9 Ash explores other possible reasons for Tacitus placemen t of the mutiny against Valens but focuses more on the relationship between Caecina and Valens (2007.150).
55 blatantly states that the hierarchy of command is completely shattered at this point: the commanders were suspected and Otho, whom alone the soldiers trusted, while he himself trusted no one except the soldiers, had left the au thority of his commanders in question ( suspecti duces et Otho, cui uni apud militem fides, dum et ipse non nisi militibus credit, imperia ducum in incerto reliquerat 2.33.3). Tacitus uses words like fides and credit to show the bonds of trust in Othos hierarchy, but ultimately we see words of abandonment and uncertainty ( in incerto relinquerat ). When the bonds between troops and leaders are so severed, success in battle can hardly be expected. Eventually, the Othonians fight their ow n commanders more ferv ently than they fight the Vitellians (Ash 1999.33). Macer and his gladiators suffer a grievous defeat which worsens Macers image (2.35.2).10 After the battle, they damn thei r wounded leader and threaten him with their swords (2.36.1), and Macer is saved only by the intervention of the tribunes and centurions. The soldiers are happy when Ot ho sends Flavius Sabinus as a replacement commander, but the commanders themselves sc orn their precarious positions (2.36.2). The danger of mutiny is constant. As the suspense towards the first battle at Bedriacum builds, Tacitus reviews the Othonian miscalculations and mishaps to date. Ash very aptly writes, In this chapter T. methodically analyses the military hierarchy, from Otho at th e top, down to the common soldiers, relentlessly identifying the problems at each level. It is li ke watching a car crash in slow motion (2007.184). Bad men hold the authority while good men are ignored ( spretis melioribus deterrimi valebant 2.39.1). With Otho withdrawn to Brixellum, Titianus holds honor imperii but Proculus holds the vis ac potestas Both are incompetent compared to Cels us and Paulinus, but the experience of 10 Macer may not be that culpable: he showed apt caution by only deploying the promptissimi gladiatorum (2.35.1), reserving the others in case the Vitellians crossed the river (Ash 2007.175).
56 these latter two men remains unused, and their positions as leaders are vain ( prudentia eorum nemo uteretur, inani nomine ducum alienae culpae praetendebantur 2.39.1). The tribunes and centurions also are paralyzed as leaders, and they remain at a loss. Enthusiastic soldiers will not follow orders: the soldiery was eag er, yet they preferred to interpre t their generals orders to suit their own purposes, rather than to carry them out ( miles alacer, qui tamen iussa ducum interpretari quam exequi mallet, 2.39.1, tr. Ash 2007.185); organiza tion is haphazard; the men respect only their emperor: the soldiers demande d that the emperor be present at the battle ( militibus ut imperator pugnae adesset poscentibus, 2.39.2). Otho may be good for morale, yet his strategy and counsel are counte rproductive. He first pushes for a hasty battle, but this causes more dissidence among the officers. Celsus and Pau linus do not want to risk an encounter with the Vitellians until their troops are rested and organized, but Ti tianus and Proculus, when they were beaten in counsel, sided with the orders of the emperor ( ubi consiliis vinceretur, ad ius imperii transibant, 2.40.1).11 Otho sends a messenger atrocibus mandatis and as Ash notes, Othos harsh directives trigger a bellum atrox (2.46.3) whose gory aftermath will be an atrox spectaculum (2.70.1) (2007.187). The impatient emperor accuses his leaders of dragging their feet and orders them to act (2.40.1). Thus when the Othonians enter the batt le, all levels of the hierarchy are dysfunctional. The effects of Othos push are immediate: at 2.41 two officers ask to meet with Caecina (Ash 2007.187-8), perhaps with thoughts of treacher y. The battle starts before this meeting can take place, and the remainder of 2.41 focuses on the complete disorder of the Othonians. Tacitus 11 Ash notes vinco in non-military contexts is common, but is ironic here, since the victory of Titianus and Proculus will soon lead to military defeat (2007.187).
57 first sets up a contrast: the Vitellia ns arrange themselves for battle sine trepidatione. Then, in a fury of jumbled words, Tacitus descri bes the fearful, jumbled Othonians: apud Othonianos pavidi duces, miles ducibus infensus, mixta vehicula et lixae, et praeruptis utrimque fossis via quieto quoque agmini angusta. Circumsistere alii signa sua, quaerere alii; incertus undique clamor adcu rrentium, vocantium: ut cuique audacia vel formido, in primam postremamve aciem prorumpebant aut relabebantur. (2.41.3) Among the Othonians the leaders were terrified, th e soldiers were hostile to their leaders, carriages and camp followers were mixed i n, and the road, with steep ditches on both sides, was narrow even for an orderly colu mn. Some gathered around their own standard, others searched for theirs. The uncertain cries of men running and calling out came from all directions: according to the fear or courag e of each, men rushed towards the front line or fell to the back. The commanders are fearful, the soldiers are di sobedient, the terrain is far from ideal, and everyone is out of place. As the battle rages forward at 2.42, the Othonians are bewildered and frightened, but they turn joyful with false rumo rs of treachery and desertion against Vitellius. The troops have no idea what is going on, and they have no one to direct them. Throughout the course of the battle, none of the Othonian comma nders are mentioned except in flight (2.44). Leadership is completely absent, and at 2.43.12 Tacitus sets up another contrast: Othos commanders have long fled while Valens and Caecina strengthen their men with reinforcements ( et ducibus Othonis iam pridem profugis Ca ecina ac Valens subsidiis suos firmabant). The Othonian troops are on their own, and it is almost embarrassing that the me n who gain attention are from the prima Adiutrix They are eager and fierce, but ine xperienced; they have some initial success, but then are sl aughtered. Their officer Orfidius Benignus, shamefully enough, is the only Othonian leader mentioned by name during the height of the battle.
58 Only after the Othonian loss and retreat to Bedriacum do we hear about the other commanders.12 Paulinus and Proculus make their escape at 2.44.1, Titianus and Celsus at 2.44.2. Vedius Aquila falls prey to mutinous troops and suffers abuse not for any faults of his own, but because the soldiers needed someone to blame (2.44.1). Annius Gallus is actually able to calm some men by counsel, entr eaties, and authority ( consilio precibus auctoritate 2.44.2), but the praetorians refuse to admit defeat. On the next day, only the soldiers are left to do the decisionmaking, and ambassadors are sent to the Vitellians (2.45.2). Once the troops are reunited with Otho, some hope seems to return. Yet Otho, as before, has no real advantage to offer them The next several chapters reveal the esteem the soldiers have developed for their emperor. They exhibit ardor encourage him, and say they will do whatever it takes to prevail. Some stretch their hands out to him and beg him not to give up.13 He certainly has an emotional hold on them, since they reflect his demeanor ( ut flexerat vultum aut induraverat Otho, clamor et gemitus 2.46.3). Otho seems to return the admiration. He refuses to continue the war and risk their lives in place of his (2.48.1). Indeed, he is depicted with imperial dignity at the end: talia locutus, ut cuique aetas aut dignita s, comiter appellatos, irent propere neu remanendo iram victoris asperarent, iuvene s auctoritate, senes precibus movebat, placidus ore, intrepidus verbis, intemp estivas suorum lacrimas coercens. (2.48.1)14 12 The Othonian generals suddenly re-enter the narrative just when the battle is over, though T. damningly fails to name them during the fighting itself (Ash 2007.195). 13 Keitel notes that having soldiers exhorting their genera ls, rather than the opposite, dramatizes the reversal of authorities attending civil war (Manolaraki 2003.77). 14 Othos sensitivity to the social hierarchy around him em phasizes his wasted potential (Ash 2007.207). Too bad Otho could not put this same sensitivity, authority, and imperial dignity towards the military hierarchy.
59 Having said such things, according to the age and rank of each, they were addressed courteously, that they should go quickly lest they aggravate the anger of the victor by remaining, he moved the young men with his authority, the old me n by entreaties; his expression was calm, his speech was undaunt ed, checking the untimely tears of his friends. Othos authority is ironically at its height. He has won over all his men, and they listen to his wishes. Even when a small mutiny erupts at 2.49 ag ainst Verginius and thos e departing, his word (all it takes is an ablative absolute) instantly stops their commotion ( increpitis seditionis auctoribus regressus 2.49.1).15 Shortly thereafter they comm it the supreme act of fidelity towards him. Alongside his pyre, soldiers kill them selves in emulation of his dignity and out of affection for their emperor ( aemulatione decoris et caritate principis, 2.49.4).16 Their attachment to Otho has deepened so much that it becomes utterly se lf-destructive (Ash 1999.34). With Otho dead and the commanders absent, all authority over the Othonian troops is lost. The men quickly rise in mutiny, supposedly out of their grief and pain (2.51.1). They attack Verginius again at 2.51.1, although he manages to escape. At 2.52.1, they cast suspicions onto the senate: they believed that th e senate was hostile towards Otho ( infensum Othoni senatum arbitrabantur ) and begin to watch their every move ( custodire sermones, vultum habitumque trahere in deterius ). And so the hierarchy continues to malfunction even after Othos death. Otho loses authority, then, in a way that is quite different from Galba. Whereas Galba loses authority primarily through his own fa ults and misdeeds, Otho loses it through the breakdown of a chain of command. Perhaps Otho c ould have taken some preventative measures to keep that chain intact, but ultimately he re quired the cooperation of the soldiers, the senate, 15 Manolaraki asserts that this mutiny is against Othos decision to give up on the war. Their love for Otho presses them to step out of line, which leaves us in doubt about the moral legitimacy of mutinies (2003.76-9). 16 Indeed, 2.54.2 labels Othos death as laudabilior
60 tribunes and centurions, generals, together with hi mself if his authority were to be preserved. Yet because the military hierarchy fa iled to coalesce across all these levels, the Othonians suffered defeat with their emperor. We are now in a position to see how Tacitu s as an author goes about narrating these challenges to unstable authority, and whether the content of Histories 1 and 2 has any bearing on the way Tacitus narrates these even ts. In a world where authority is so dreadfully unstable, how can we trust a historian to re late the story accurately?
61 CHAPTER 4 THE AUTHORITY OF TACITUS How Does Tacitus Strive to Establish Authority? In a work so focused on individuals struggli ng to gain power, it is quite appropriate that Tacitus begins by exerting his own authority and firmly establishing his position as a historian. As Damon points out, his very first line links him with the annalistic tradition (2003.77) and links him to the venerable historians of the Republican period, those who (according to Tacitus) wrote pari eloquentia ac libertate (1.1.1). Likewise, he becomes a member of that distinguished company of Senator-historians, and by implication, that long line of magna ingenia (Marincola 1997.144). Thus Tacitus distinguishes these historia ns from those who wrote after Actium, those who were less concerned with tr uth and politics, but more con cerned with flattery and odium. Tacitus is not one of thes e. In fact, he claims to be a neutral writer ( mihi Galba Otho Vitellius nec beneficio nec iniuria cogniti 1.1.3), as well as an honest one, since he admits his debt to Vespasian and his sons ( dignitatem nostram a Vespasiano inchoatam, a Tito auctam, a Domitiano longius provectam non abnuerim 1.1.3). Yet there is something almost contradictory in Tacitus statements. Impartiality and dignitas are difficult to claim simultaneously, since part of asserting dignitas involves naming ones connections.1 Tacitus wants to assert beneficia without bias (Marincola 1997.166). So to avoid th e appearance of flatte ry and reassure his audience, he claims neutral ity through a generalized stat ement: anyone professing genuine honesty must speak neither with affection nor with hate ( sed incorruptam fidem professis neque amore quisquam et sine odio dicendus est 1.1.3). Thus, his prime concern, weaving impartiality with social status (Mar incola 1997.144), seems to be delivered intact. 1 It is noteworthy that by Tacitus time the historian w ill need to aver impartiality even for a non-contemporary historyThe belief that all historians wrote out of fear or favour must have become deeply engrained (Marincola 1997.166).
62 Tacitus then changes the subject slightly, saying that he plans to write about the reigns of Nerva and Trajan during his old ag e. Not only is this topic richer but safer, due to the rare happiness of the times, when it is permitted to feel what you want and to say what you feel ( rara temporum felicitate ubi sentir e quae velis et quae sentias dicere licet 1.1.4).2 Marincola argues that this statement allows Tacitus to bring his assertion of authority full circle. Tacitus has rara felicitas which will allow him to write good histor y and be impartial like those historians who wrote pari eloquentia ac libertate In a kind of ring-compositi on, Tacitus strengthens here the generalized assertion of im partiality made in the previo us sentence (Marincola 1997.167). By categorizing himself thus with trustwor thy writers living during good times, Tacitus establishes his authority as a historian.3 At 2.101, Tacitus reinforces this message, but here, he claims his place among the crowd of historians not by comparing himself to good writers, but contra sting himself with bad ones. The writers of the time wrote in flattery ( scriptores temporumco rruptas in adulationem causas, tradidere 2.101.1). Ash comments that Tacitus uses these words to assert his independence as a historianT. will give his ow n opinions and is not dependent on what the scriptores temporum hand down to posterity (2007.379). He sets himself further apart from these men by beginning his next se ntence with a first person pronoun, nobis. According to Ash, this word allows self promotion. Tacitus is attempting to set himself upas a lone voice against a large body of writers (2007.380). Th en, by revealing their ambition and envy ( aemulatione etiam invidiaque, 2.101.1) as if a prosecutor, he removes the possibility of being 2 Tacitus, like Sallust, sees the ideal historian as one no t beholden to the interests of those in power (Marincola 1997.167). 3 As Damon comments, Tacitus leaves out some expected topoi here, including an expression of fear over the reception of his work (2003.77). This omission, if interpreted as a show of confidence, may al so help Tacitus build authority, but Damon says reticence is a mark of Ts historiographical style (2003.77).
63 named guilty himself. With these thoughts, Tacitu s brings his reader back to his very first chapter: This digressive clos e to the book develops T.s openi ng discussion (1.1.1-2) about the pitfalls of imperial histori ography, especially his point that authors who flatter expose themselves to the degrading charge of sl avishness (Ash 2007.379). Tacitus makes sure he secures his place as a good historian and leaves another reminder of his auctoritas. What Authority Does Tacitus Manage to Gain? Having alig ned himself with the illustrious Republican writers, Tacitus then must prove his right to the position. He seems to uphold his cla im of honest reporting by keeping his own voice out of the narrative. Tacitus rare ly interrupts the flow of his hi story to offer personal remarks, and thus makes it easier for the audience to visual ize the story for themselv es rather than through a writer. The historical middle-ma n is camouflaged to make the na rrative appear less tamperedwith and more truthful. So Tacitus gains authority by avoiding direct authorial statements, since these can often appear forceful or biased. The very few times Tacitus does use his own voi ce, then, are of great importance. In Book 1, he uses the first person only once, at 1.18: nocuit antiquus rigor et nimia severitas, cui iam pares non sumus With the plural sumus Tacitus appears to express his views while simultaneously identifying himsel f with some group (Romans, men of senatorial rank) which presumably holds these same views. In his book Tacitus the Sententious Historian Sinclair explains that the use of we helps Tacitus p resent himself and his reader as like-minded comrades-in-arms. He continues to say th at First person plural verbs, pronouns, and possessive adjectives draw the reader into an implicit alliance with Tacitus (1995.53).4 So when 4 Although Sinclairs Tacitus the Sententious Historian focuses on Annales 1-6 many of his comments are applicable here.
64 Tacitus asserts his authority and says that Galba met his ruin b ecause he was unbearable to all, the force of the first person verb compel s the reader to buy into his words. Tacitus uses the first person much more assertively in Book 2. Perhaps at this time he feels more confident about the estab lishment of his authority, or pe rhaps the subject matter simply strikes his mind a certain way a nd moves him differently. Whatever the case, Tacitus begins 2.37 boldly with invenio He emerges from his camouflaged hi deaway and puts himself at centerstage. Again, he defines himself in relation to other writers, in this case those biased by their emotions ( invenio apud quosdam auctores pavore belli seu fastidio utriusque principis, 2.37.1). In addition, Ash comments that with this statemen t, T. implies diligent consultation of multiple sources in an effort to e nhance his historiographical auctoritas (2007.177). Tacitus appears to be doing his best to discover the tr uth. He relates their version of the story, that the soldiers had debated ending the fighting and naming an emperor, and that Paulinus hoped to be chosen. But Tacitus is not like these historia ns, and he does not th ink like them. He contrasts himself and his opinions with an emphatic ego conceding (first person singular concesserim ) that although a few men may have wanted peace, Paulinus would not have held such a vain hope. The fact that Tacitus concedes slightly make s him appear reasonable and ev en trustworthy, qualities which help him gain further authority and confidence from his readers. Tacitus also is not afraid to assert his own belief openly, showing command of his arguments. He continues on with reor expressing his lack of faith in the armies to establish a good emperor and in the generals to endure one. Tacitus continues this vein of authorial expression into 2.38. Continuing his pessimism, he digresses about the greed for power and how it has affected Roman history over time. He concludes that the Othonians and Vitellians follow in the footstep s of so many others: the same
65 wrath of the gods, the same ma dness of men, the same reasons for wickedness led them to discord ( eadem illos deum ira, eadem hominum rabies, eaedem scelerum causae in discordiam egere, 2.38.2). This moralizing statement, tied with a remark about the worthlessness of the current emperors, brings a powerful close to T acitus thoughts. He ends the chapter and his digression by returning to the first person ( sed me veterum novorumque morum reputatio longius tulit: nunc ad rerum ordinem venio 2.38.2), a reminder of his authority.5 His last word finalizes the excursion in a way that is strikingly similar to the way it began: venio as opposed to invenio The digression initially unfolds with the compound form, thus recalling the act of inventing, such as an author molding a narrative. The simple form on the other hand, connotes a return to stricter objectivity from the creative license of invenio Tacitus moves full circ le through his authorial interjection, then transitions back to the narrative. Tacitus moves from causing almost no interferen ce in the narrative to suddenly bursting onto the scene, reinforcing his authority and moralizing about the current situation. But why? It is worth citing Sinclair at length: ...he reserves this personal address for the digressive passages where he diverges from strict chronicling of events a nd sets out his views on various topics at greater length. These digressions are introduced into the narrative at crucial poin ts where Tacitus must make certain that his reader has what he consider s the proper historical perspectiveHe provides the reader with opportunities to react to him as historical narrator and to assess his judgment. (1995.59) Indeed, it seems by this time in his narrative Ta citus has been saving up his words. When he finally requires a break to challenge a repor t in his sources (Ash 2007.176), he takes the opportunity to likewise strengthen his authority, position his story in the overall Roman context, 5 Ash notes that this sentence ( sed melongius tulit ) is an apologetic formulae commonly seen in digressions (2007.183). Tacitus is playing the role of the proper historian.
66 and provide a moral gloss. As Sinclair points ou t above, it assures that everyone is on the same page before he moves on. Furthermore, the place ment of his digression could not be better: This is a well-timed reflective pause before the climactic account of the first battle at Bedriacum (2.39-45). Its advantag es are clear: not only does T. heighten tension for his readers by delaying the miserable finale of Othos principate but he also enhances his own auctoritas as a historian (2.37) and satisfie s the moralising agenda of ancient historiography (2.38). (Ash 2007.176) With his authority secure and all loose ends ti ed, Tacitus can enter hi s battle narrative with assurance, focus, and anticipation. What Causes Tacitus Authority to Become Unstable? Direct interruptions, or their opposites, im personal phrases, can cause an authors authority to become unstable. These constructions can be risky, and Tacitus must be careful when using bold and abrupt authorial digressi ons. Ironically, such passages can either win authority or lose it, depending on whether the ideas are perceived as firm or forceful. If the reader feels that Tacitus is too forceful and crosses the line wi th excessive judgment, he may appear biased himself and lose his credibility. Yet Tacitus seem s to hit the right mark and gain strength from his direct interlocutions. He is usually quite cautious about bei ng too assertive, and is fond of using impersonal phrases to express himself mild ly. He sometimes begins a thought with it is uncertain ( incertum 1.23.1), they say ( ferunt 1.17.1) or it is said ( dicitur 1.44.1), especially if he is introducing something he may not necessary support in full. According to Marincola, these phrases help Tacitus maintain the formal di stance and appear as the good historian striving for the truth ( 1995.95). They are also useful for offering various versions of a story. At 1.41, Tacitus relates th e final words of the dying Galba through a great chain of such phrases ( prodiderealiipaucos pluresnon satis constattradidit 1.41.2-3).6 In doing 6 Tacitus also uses this chapter as another opportunity to distinguish himself from the bad historians, those who write out of fear or admiration ( extremam eius vocem, ut cuique odium aut admiratio fuit, varie prodidere 1.42.2).
67 this, Tacitus can spice up his story of Galbas last moment with multiple exciting accounts, but he does not have to commit to any single version. Using these phrases to offer various versions also serves as one of several ways that a historian wins credibil ity by the avoidance of omniscience and was a recognition too that in many matterscertainty was impossible (Marincola 1995.94). Therefore, th rough his use of impersonal phras es at 1.41, Tacitus (as usual) accomplishes many things at once: he keeps hi s proper distance, appe ars prudent and honest, flavors his story, and avoids pe rsonal responsibility. Thus, although Tacitus impersonal phrases may seem authoritatively weak on the su rface, they are the opposite. Although direct interruptions may cause Tacitus to lose credibility shoul d he cross the boundari es of decorum, he knows how to use just the right amount of assertion. Tacitus authority does not become unstable, but remains everywhere intact.
68 CHAPTER 5 CONCLUSION At the very heart of Tacitus Histories lies a complex struggle ove r authority as it is initially gained, eagerly sought, achieved, and lost. In Book 1, we see Galba on the decline due prim arily to character flaws, and we watch the ignarus old man vainly attempt to regain his footing. The very things which he hopes will help his situation ( severitas and adoption of Piso) hasten his fall, while all other de triments go completely unnoticed. His imperium unravels strand by strand as the challenges to hi s unstable authority snowball in to an overwhelming force. He ultimately fails as an emperor because of his in ability to see his own mistakes and correct his grip on authority accordingly. In the end, Tacitus gr ants him the obituary of a tragic character, happier in the reigns of othe rs than in his own (1.49.2). With Otho we witness the full ri se and fall of power. He gains imperium by being the opposite of Galba and more like Nero. He acts with generosity and engages in flattery, but he does not know how to engineer a strong chain of command. Strife grows among the generals as bad leaders gain power and good ones lose it. Dissension and mutiny abound when the soldiers develop overzealous loyalty to wards Otho, but hatred towards their immediate officers. The broken bond between soldiers and leaders makes victory impossible, challenges Othos unstable authority beyond tolerance, and cau ses his consequent ruin. His d eath is somewhat tragic also: with a calm demeanor he decides to end the war by ending his life, and thus to save his beloved soldiers (2.47.1). Ironically, many will take thei r own lives out of grief for their emperor (2.49.4). So whereas Galbas authority becomes unsta ble primarily due to his own errors, Otho fails more indirectly, falling prey the dysfunctio nal nature of the chain of command. The proper measure of authority eludes them both.
69 With such chaotic subject matter Tacitus j ob as narrator is indeed challenging. Yet he establishes and maintain s authority as a writer with masterful ease. He frames Books 1 and 2 with direct authorial statements, associat ing himself with good historians who write pari eloquentia ac libertate (1.1.1), and contrasting himself with bad historians who write in adulationem (2.101.1). Within this framework, he uses a mix of first person interjections, digressions, and impersonal statements to strike a delicate balance of author ial assertion, one that implies control of the narrative without seeming overbearing. Although he writes about unstable authority, Tacitus own authority is fully secure. From the examination of this material, we can see that stable aut hority not only requires some favorable character traits and the ability to construct strong s upport from a chain of command, but it also requires knowledge of those who have successfully held authority in the past and the ability to follow in their tracks. These are the very lessons history strives to teach, and Tacitus successfully co mmunicates them through Galba, Otho, and himself.
70 LIST OF REFERENCES Ash, R. 1999. Ordering Anarchy: Armies and Leaders in Tacitus Histories Ann Arbor. (ed.) 2007. Tacitus Histories Book II. Cambridge. Da mon, C. (ed.) 2003. Tacitus Histories Book I Cambridge. Haynes, H. 2003. The History of Make-Believe: Tacitus on Imperial Rome Berkeley. Husband, R. W. 1915. Galbas Assassina tion and the Indifferent Citizen, CP 10.321-25. Keitel, E. E. 2006. Sententia and Structure in Tacitus Histories 1.12-49, Arethusa 39.219-244. Manolaraki, E. 2003. Seditio: Milita ry Disintegration in Tacitus Histories diss. Cornell University. Marincola, J. 1997. Authority and Tradition in Ancient Historiography Cambridge. Morgan, M. G. 2003. Galba, the Massacre of th e Marines, and the Formation of Legio I Adiutrix, Athenaeum 91.489-515. 2006. 69 AD. The Year of Four Emperors Oxford. Pagn, V. 2006. Shadows and Assassinations: Fo rms of Time in Tacitus and Appian, Arethusa 39.193-218. Sinclair, P. 1995. Tacitus the Sententious Historian: A Sociology of Rhetoric in Annales 1-6. University Park, PA. Syme, R. 1958. Tacitus, 2 vols. Oxford.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Megan M. Daly was born January 6, 1984. She gr ew up in Orland Park, Illinois, but moved to Wi nter Haven, Florida, when she was 14. Sh e graduated from Lake Region High School in 2002 and began classes at the University of Florid a that August. She thereafter realized her love for classics and art history and has been studying it eagerly ever since. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in 2006 and was honored as a valedictorian of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. After attending a life-cha nging session of the Amer ican School of Classical Studies at Athens that summer, Megan entered the master's program at UF. Today she continues to devote her life to classics through her course work, research, and teaching.
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