|Do not fly Iberia
Display Latin text
Translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb
Book II Chapter 21: Otho versus Vitellius. The siege of Placentia[AD 69]
Return to index
The first day, however, was spent in a furious onset rather than in the skilful approaches of a veteran army. Exposed and reckless, the troops came close under the walls, stupefied by excess in food and wine. In this struggle the amphitheatre, a most beautiful building, situated outside the walls, was burnt to the ground, possibly set on fire by the assailants, while they showered brands, fireballs, and ignited missiles, on the besieged, possibly by the besieged themselves, while they discharged incessant volleys in return. The populace of the town, always inclined to be suspicious, believed that combustibles had been purposely introduced into the building by certain persons from the neighbouring colonies, who viewed it with envious and jealous eyes, because there was not in Italy another building so capacious. Whatever the cause of the accident, it was thought of but little moment as long as more terrible disasters were apprehended; but as soon as they again felt secure, they lamented it as though they could not have endured a heavier calamity. In the end Caecina was repulsed with great slaughter among his troops, and the night was spent in the preparation of siege-works. The Vitellianists constructed mantlets, hurdles, and sheds, for undermining the walls and screening the assailants; the Othonianists busied themselves in preparing stakes and huge masses of stone and of lead and brass, with which to break and overwhelm the hostile ranks. The shame of failure, the hope of renown, wrought on both armies; both were appealed to by different arguments; on the one side they extolled the strength of the legions and of the army of Germany; on the other, the distinctions of the soldiery of the capital and the Praetorian cohorts; the one reviled their foes as slothful and indolent soldiers, demoralized by the circus and the theatres; the others retorted with the names of foreigner and barbarian. At the same time they lauded or vituperated Otho and Vitellius, but found indeed a more fruitful source of mutual provocation in invective than in praise.
Event: Otho versus Vitellius