day, while Cæcina was engaged on the construction of a bridge, two
tribunes of the Prætorian Guard came to him and begged an interview.
He was on the point of hearing their proposals and sending back his own,
when the scouts arrived at headlong speed with the news that the enemy were
close at hand. The address of the tribunes was thus abruptly terminated.
Thus it remained uncertain whether deception, or treason, or some honourable
arrangement, had been in their thoughts. Cæcina dismissed the tribunes
and rode back to the camp. There he found that Fabius Valens had given the
signal for battle, and that the troops were under arms. While the legions
were casting lots for the order of march, the cavalry charged, and, strange
to say, were kept only by the courage of the Italian legion from being
driven back on the entrenchments by an inferior force of Othonianists. These
men, at the sword's point, compelled the beaten squadron to wheel round and
resume the conflict. The line of the Vitellianists was formed without hurry,
for, though the enemy was close at hand, the sight of their arms was
intercepted by the thick brushwood. In Otho's army the generals were full of
fear, and the soldiers hated their officers; the baggage-waggons and the
camp-followers were mingled with the troops; and as there were steep ditches
on both sides the road, it would have been found too narrow even for an
undisturbed advance. Some were gathering round their standards; others were
seeking them; everywhere was heard the confused shouting of men who were
joining the ranks, or calling to their comrades, and each, as he was
prompted by courage or by cowardice, rushed on to the front, or slunk back
to the rear.