And now, as Galba purposed to go forth, and Vinius would not permit it, while Celsus and Laco urged it and vehemently chided Vinius, a rumour spread insistently that Otho had been slain in the camp; and after a little, Julius Atticus, a soldier of distinction among the guards, was seen rushing up with his sword drawn, and crying out that he had slain the enemy of Caesar; and forcing his way through the crowd about Galba, he showed him his sword all stained with blood.
Then Galba fixed his eyes upon him and said,
‘Who gave thee thy orders?’ Whereupon the man replied that it was his fidelity and the oath that he had sworn, at which the multitude cried out that he had done well, and gave him their applause. Then Galba got into his litter and was carried forth, wishing to sacrifice to Jupiter and show himself to the citizens. But when he was come into the forum, there met him, like a change of wind, a report that Otho was master of the army.
Then, as might be expected in so great a crowd, some cried out to him to turn back, others to go forward; some bade him to be of good courage, others urged him to be cautious; and so, while his litter was swept hither and thither, as in a surging sea, and often threatened to capsize, there came into view, first horsemen, and then men-at-arms, charging through the basilica of Paulus, and with one voice loudly ordering all private citizens out of their way.
The multitude, accordingly, took to their heels, not scattering in flight, but seeking the porticoes and eminences of the forum, as if to get a view of a spectacle. Hostilities began with the overthrow of a statue of Galba by Attilius Vergilio, and then the soldiers hurled javelins at the litter; and since they failed to strike it, they advanced upon it with their swords drawn. No one opposed them or tried to defend the emperor, except one man, and he was the only one, among all the thousands there on whom the sun looked down, who was worthy of the Roman empire.
This was Sempronius Densus, a centurion, and though he had received no special favours from Galba, yet in defence of honour and the law he took his stand in front of the litter. And first, lifting up the switch with which centurions punish soldiers deserving of stripes, he cried out to the assailants and ordered them to spare the emperor. Then, as they came to close quarters with him, he drew his sword, and fought them off a long time, until he fell with a wound in the groin.