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There could hardly be a man so careless of human interests as not to be affected by this spectacle. There was the Roman Emperor, lord but a few days before of the whole human race, leaving the seat of his power, and passing through the midst of his people and his capital, to abdicate his throne. Men had never before seen or heard of such an event. Cæsar, the Dictator, had fallen by sudden violence, Caligula by secret treason. The shades of night and the obscurity of a rural hiding-place had veiled the flight of Nero. Piso and Galba had, it might be said, fallen in battle. In an assembly of his own people, and in the midst of his own soldiers, with the very women of his family looking on,
Vitellius stood and spoke a few words suitable to the sad conjuncture. "He gave way," he said, "for the sake of peace, for the sake of his country; let them only remember him, and think with compassion of his brother, of his wife, of his young and innocent children." At the same time he held out his son, commending him first to individual bystanders, then to the whole assembly. At last, unable to speak for weeping, he unfastened the dagger from his side, and offered it to the Consul, Cæcilius Simplex, who was standing by him, as if to indicate that he surrendered the power of life and death over the citizens. The Consul rejecting it, and those who were standing by in the assembly shouting remonstrance, he departed, as if with the intention of laying aside the emblems of Imperial power in the Temple of Concord, and of betaking himself to his brother's house. Louder shouts here met him from the crowd, which hindered him from entering a private house, and invited him to return to the palace. Every other route was closed, and the only one open was one which led into the Via Sacra. Then in utter perplexity he returned to the palace. The rumour that he had renounced the Imperial dignity had preceded him thither, and Flavius Sabinus had sent written orders to the tribunes of the cohorts to keep their soldiers under restraint.

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