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Vitellius, when informed of these events, left a portion of his army at Narnia under the command of the prefect of the Prætorian Guard, and deputed his brother Lucius with six cohorts of infantry and 500 cavalry to encounter the danger that now threatened him on the side of Campania. Sick at heart, he found relief in the zeal of the soldiers and in the shouts with which the people clamoured for arms, while he gave the delusive name of an army and of Roman legions to a cowardly mob, that would not venture on any thing beyond words. At the instance of his freedmen (for his friends were the less faithful the more distinguished their rank) he ordered the tribes to be convoked, and to those who gave in their names administered the oath of service. As the numbers were excessive, he divided the business of enrolment between the consuls. He required the Senators to furnish a prescribed number of slaves and a certain weight of silver. The Roman Knights offered their services and money, and even the freedmen voluntarily sought the privilege of doing the same. This pretence of loyalty, dictated at first by fear, passed into enthusiasm, and many expressed compassion, not so much for Vitellius, as for the fallen condition of the Imperial power. Vitellius himself failed not to draw out their sympathies by his pitiable looks, his voice, and his tears; he was liberal in his
GENERAL DEFECTION FROM VITELLIUS
promises and even extravagant, as men in their alarm naturally are. He even expressed a wish to be saluted as Cæsar, a title which he had formerly rejected. But now he had a superstitious feeling about the name; and it is a fact that in the moment of terror the counsels of the wise and the voice of the rabble are listened to with equal respect. But as all movements that originate in thoughtless impulse, however vigorous in their beginnings, become feeble after a time, the throng of Senators and Knights gradually melted away, dispersing at first tardily and during the absence of the Emperor, but before long with a contemptuous indifference to his presence, till, ashamed of the failure of his efforts, Vitellius waived his claims to services which were not offered.

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hide References (9 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (3):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), EXE´RCITUS
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), TRIBUS
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), NA´RNIA
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (6):
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