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Otho was giving a crowded entertainment to the most distinguished men and women of Rome. In their alarm they doubted whether this was a casual outbreak of the soldiers, or an act of treachery in the Emperor, and whether to remain and be arrested was a more perilous alternative than to disperse and fly. At one time making a show of courage, at another betrayed by their terror, they still watched the countenance of Otho. And, as it happened, so ready were all to suspect, Otho felt as much alarm as he inspired. Terrified no less by the Senate's critical position than by his own, he had forthwith despatched the prefects of the Prætorian Guard to allay the fury of the soldiery, and he now ordered all to leave the banquet without delay. Then on all sides officers of state cast aside the insignia of office, and shunned the retinues of their friends and domestics; aged men and women wandered in the darkness of night about the various streets of the city; few went to their homes, most sought the houses of friends, or some obscure hiding-place in the dwelling of their humblest dependents.