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Tacitus: History Book 2 [100]

100. Caecina, having embraced Vitellius and received tokens of high distinction, left him, and sent a detachment of cavalry to occupy Cremona. It was followed by the veteran troops of the 4th, 10th, and 16th legions, by the 5th and 22nd legions, and the rear was brought up by the 21st (the Rapax) and the first Italian legion with the veteran troops of three British legions, and a chosen body of auxiliaries. After the departure of Caecina, Valens sent a despatch to the army which had been under his own command with directions that it should wait for him on the road; such, he said, was his arrangement with Caecina. Caecina, however, being with the army in person, and consequently having greater influence, pretended that this plan had been changed, so that the gathering forces of the enemy might be met with their whole strength. Orders were therefore given to the legions to advance with all speed upon Cremona, while a portion of the force was to proceed to Hostilia. Caecina himself turned aside to Ravenna, on the pretext that he wished to address the fleet. Soon, however, he sought the retirement of Patavium, there to concert his treachery. Lucilius Bassus, who had been promoted by Vitellius from the command of a squadron of cavalry to be admiral of the fleets at Ravenna and Misenum, failing immediately to obtain the command of the Praetorian Guard sought to gratify his unreasonable resentment by an atrocious act of perfidy. It cannot be certainly known whether he carried Caecina with him, or whether (as is often the case with bad men, that they are like each other) both were actuated by the same evil motives.

100. Caecina e complexu Vitellii multo cum honore digressus partem equitum ad occupandam Cremonam praemisit. mox vexilla primae, quartae, quintaedecimae, sextaedecimae legionum, dein quinta et duoetvicensima secutae; postremo agmine unaetvicensima Rapax et prima Italica incessere cum vexillariis trium Britannicarum legionum et electis auxiliis. profecto Caecina scripsit Fabius Valens exercitui, quem ipse ductaverat, ut in itinere opperiretur: sic sibi cum Caecina convenisse. qui praesens eoque validior mutatum id consilium finxit ut ingruenti bello tota mole occurreretur. ita adcelerare legiones Cremonam, pars Hostiliam petere iussae: ipse Ravennam devertit praetexto classem adloquendi; mox Patavii secretum componendae proditionis quaesitum. namque Lucilius Bassus post praefecturam alae Ravennati simul ac Misenensi classibus a Vitellio praepositus, quod non statim praefecturam praetorii adeptus foret, iniquam iracundiam flagitiosa perfidia ulciscebatur. nec sciri potest traxeritne Caecinam, an, quod evenit inter malos ut et similes sint, eadem illos pravitas impulerit.

101. The historians of the period, who during the ascendancy of the Flavian family composed the chronicles of this war, have in the distorted representations of flattery assigned as the motives of these men a regard for peace and a love of their country. For my own part I believe that, to say nothing of a natural fickleness and an honour which they must have held cheap after the betrayal of Galba, feelings of rivalry, and jealousy lest others should outstrip them in the favour of Vitellius, made them accomplish his ruin. Caecina, having overtaken the legions, strove by every species of artifice to undermine the fidelity of the centurions and soldiers, who were devoted to Vitellius. Bassus, in making the same attempt, experienced less difficulty, for the fleet, remembering how recently it had served in the cause of Otho, was ready to change its allegiance. 101. Scriptores temporum, qui potiente rerum Flavia domo monimenta belli huiusce composuerunt, curam pacis et amorem rei publicae, corruptas in adulationem causas, tradidere: nobis super insitam levitatem et prodito Galba vilem mox fidem aemulatione etiam invidiaque, ne ab aliis apud Vitellium anteirentur, pervertisse ipsum Vitellium videntur. Caecina legiones adsecutus centurionum militumque animos obstinatos pro Vitellio variis artibus subruebat: Basso eadem molienti minor difficultas erat, lubrica ad mutandam fidem classe ob memoriam recentis pro Othone militiae.

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