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Caligula, Chapter 51: His fears.
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I think I may fairly attribute to mental weakness the existence of two exactly opposite faults in the same person, extreme assurance and, on the other hand, excessive timorousness. For this man [Note 1], who so utterly despised the gods, was wont at the slightest thunder and lightning to shut his eyes, to muffle up his head, and if they increased, to leap from his bed and hide under it. In his journey through Sicily, though he made all manner of fun of the miracles in various places, he suddenly fled from Messana by night, panic-stricken by the smoke and roaring from Aetna's crater. Full of threats as he was also against the barbarians, when he was riding in a chariot through a narrow defile on the far side of the Rhine, and someone said that there would be no slight panic if the enemy should appear anywhere, he immediately mounted a horse and hastily returned to the bridges. Finding them crowded with camp servants and baggage, in his impatience of any delay he was passed along from hand to hand over the men's heads. Soon after, hearing of an uprising in Germania, he made preparations to flee from the city and equipped fleets for the purpose, finding comfort only in the thought that the provinces across the sea would at any rate be left him, in case the enemy should be victorious and take possession of the summits of the Alps, as the Cimbri, or even of the city, as the Senones had once done. And it was this, I think, that later inspired his assassins with the idea of pretending to the riotous soldiers that he had laid hands on himself in terror at the report of a defeat. |
Note 1: this man = Caligula
|Non inmerito mentis ualitudini attribuerim diuersissima in eodem uitia, summam confidentiam et contra nimium metum. Nam qui deos tanto opere contemneret, ad minima tonitrua et fulgura coniuere, caput obuoluere, at uero maiore proripere se e strato sub lectumque condere solebat. Peregrinatione quidem Siciliensi irrisis multum locorum miraculis repente a Messana noctu profugit Aetnaei uerticis fumo ac murmure pauefactus. Aduersus barbaros quoque minacissimus, cum trans Rhenum inter angustias densumque agmen iter essedo faceret, dicente quodam non mediocrem fore consternationem sicunde hostis appareat, equum ilico conscendit ac propere [re]uersus ad pontes, ut eos calonibus et impedimentis stipatos repperit, impatiens morae per manus ac super capita hominum translatus est. mox etiam audita rebellione Germaniae fugam et subsidia fugae classes apparabat, uno solacio adquiescens transmarinas certe sibi superfuturas prouincias, si uictores Alpium iuga, ut Cimbri, uel etiam urbem, ut Senones quondam, occuparent; unde credo percussoribus eius postea consilium natum apud tumultuantes milites ementiendi, ipsum sibi manus intulisse nuntio malae pugnae perterritum.|