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In the course of the following year (A. D. 69), a dreadful misfortune happened in his family, and proved to him a severe stroke of affliction. A descent, from Otho's fleet, which roved about in quest of depredation, was made on the coast of Liguria. The freebooters plundered the city of Intemelium, and in their fury, murdered Agricola's mother, then residing upon her own estate. They laid waste her lands, and went off with a considerable booty. Agricola set out immediately to pay the last tribute of filial piety, and being informed on his way, that Vespasian aspired to the imperial dignity, he declared at once in favour of that party. In the beginning of the new reign, the government of Rome, and the whole administration, centred in Mucianus, Dornitian being, at that time, too young for business, and from the elevation of his father claiming no other privilege than that of being debauched and profligate without control. Agricola was despatched to raise new levies. He executed that commission with so much zeal and credit to himself, that Mucianus advanced him to the command of the twentieth legion, then quartered in Britain, and for some time unwilling to swear fidelity to Vespasian. Their commander was of pretoran rank; but either on account of his own disaffection, or the turbulent spirit of the soldiers, his authority was too feeble. Agricola succeeded to the command of the legion, and to the task of punishing the guilty. He acquitted himself with consummate address and singular moderation.
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