Page 0934

934

UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.

Flavius Sabinus were busily engaged in the Jewish war. The father, however,

though plebeian born, became ambitious, not only of military fame, but also

of Imperial distinction. Even before the decision of the question between

Vitellius and Otho, the aspirations of Vespasianus were known and approved

among the Syrian legions; and they accordingly proceeded to proclaim him

Imperator. While Vitellius after the battle of Bedriacum was making his

entry into Rome the huzzas of the soldiers in Syria were ringing in the

ears of Vespasianus.

As to Vitellius, he immediately revealed a character as swinish as it was

bloody. He was chiefly noted as the most illustrious glutton of Rome. He

ate and drank until his coarse mind and coarser body were totally unfitted

for rational activities. Mucianus, the other general of the Syrian legions,

had meanwhile heartily ratified the assumption of Imperial honors by his

colleague. Vespasianus himself remained for a season in the East. The

suppression of the revolt in Palestine was entrusted to Titus. In order to

overthrow the government of Vitellius, Mucianus advanced on Rome by way of

Illyricum. The legions in the West were tempted with letters to abandon

the cause of Vitellius. Especially was the Fourteenth Legion, which had

recently been sent into Britain as a punishment for having upheld the party

of Otho, plied with motives for a revolt. As Mucianus came on and made his

way into Cisalpine Gaul he was met at Bedriacum by the forces of Vitellius,

but the loyalty of the latter-even of the generals-was shaken, or at least

lukewarm. The battle, however, was severe, and was only won by the army of

Mucianus after much slaughter on both sides. Cremona was taken and pillaged

by the victors, who then continued their march on the capital.

Vitellius was all the while living in riotous excesses. In the course of a

few months he expended nine hundred millions of sesterces on revelings and

vulgar brutality. He refused to credit the story of the disaster in the

North. When the prisoners, liberated by the generals of Vespasianus and

sent to Rome for the express purpose of confirming the intelligence, came

into the city, they were put to death as liars. At last, however, the

libidinous glutton was obliged to open his eyes to the peril. An army of

praetorians and gladiators was collected from the precincts of Roman Capua

and led into the valley of the Nar to confront the approaching enemy, but

the melange of half-soldiers could not endure even the sight of the

veterans of Valens, general of the forces of Vespasianus; and Vitellius was

obliged to yield without striking a blow. Oddly enough, considering the

temper of the times and the established precedents, he was granted the

privilege of retiring to private life. Soon, however, he made his escape,

returned to Rome, and was again put at the head of the desperate faction

which opposed the party of Vespasianus. The adherents of the latter were

driven to the Capitol Hill, where they endeavored to defend themselves

against the Vitellians; but these gathered in great numbers, surrounded the

hill, and by discharging burning arrows and throwing fire-brands succeeded

in firing the buildings. The flames got the upper hand of the besieged, and

the splendid edifices, including the great Capitoline temple of the gods,

were reduced to ashes. Sabinus, who held the hill, was dismayed by the

conflagration and yielded to his assailants.

Meanwhile Primus, who led the advance of the army of Vespasianus, reached

the city, and entered the gates with the flying rabble which had been sent

out to oppose his progress. The city was given up to pillage, and such

scenes of carnage and destruction ensued as had never before been witnessed

in the circle of the Seven Hills. Vitellius again made his escape, but

presently returned to the deserted basilica of the Palatine, and was there

found hiding behind a curtain. He was dragged forth and hurried along with

torn dress and bleeding wounds through the midst of the jeering multitude.

He was compelled to witness the demolition of his own statues, and was then

ignominiously butchered in the