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At this time the legion in Africa was commanded by Valerius Festus, a young man of extravagant habits and immoderate ambition, who was now made uneasy by his relationship to Vitellius. Whether this man in their frequent interviews tempted Piso to revolt, or whether he resisted
PLOT AGAINST PISO IN AFRICA
such overtures, is not known for certain, for no one was present at their confidential meetings, and, after Piso's death, many were disposed to ingratiate themselves with the murderer. There is no doubt that the province and the troops entertained feelings of hostility to Vespasian, and some of the Vitellianists, who had escaped from the capital, incessantly represented to Piso that Gaul was hesitating and Germany ready to revolt, that his own position was perilous, and that for one who in peace must be suspected war was the safer course. While this was going on, Claudius Sagitta, prefect of Petra's Horse, making a very quick passage reached Africa before Papirius, the centurion despatched by Mucianus. He declared that an order to put Piso to death had been given to the centurion, and that Galerianus, his cousin and son-in-law, had perished; that his only hope of safety was in bold action; that in such action two paths were open; he might defend himself on the spot, or he might sail for Gaul and offer his services as general to the Vitellianist armies. Piso was wholly unmoved by this statement. The centurion despatched by Mucianus, on landing in the port of Carthage, raised his voice, and invoked in succession all blessings on the head of Piso, as if he were Emperor, and bade the bystanders, who were astonished by this sudden and strange proceeding, take up the same cry. The credulous mob rushed into the market-place, and demanded that Piso should shew himself. They threw everything into an uproar with their clamorous shouts of joy, careless of the truth, and only eager to flatter. Piso, acting on the information of Sagitta, or, perhaps, from natural modesty, would not make his appearance in public, or trust himself to the zeal of the populace. On questioning the centurion, and finding that he had sought a pretext for accusing and murdering him, he ordered the man to be executed, moved, not so much by any hope of saving his life, as by indignation against the assassin; for this fellow had been one of the murderers of Macer, and was now come to slay the proconsul with hands already stained with the blood of the legate. He then severely blamed the people of Carthage in an edict which betrayed his anxiety, and ceased to discharge even the usual duties of his office, shutting himself up in his palace, to guard against any casual occurrence that might lead to a new outbreak.

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