|Do not fly Iberia
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Translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb
Book III Chapter 70: Vitellius versus Antonius Primus. Speech of Sabinus[AD 69]
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|At dawn of day, before either side commenced hostilities, Sabinus sent Cornelius Martialis, a centurion of the first rank, to Vitellius, with instructions to complain of the infraction of the stipulated terms. "There has evidently," he said, "been a mere show and pretence of abdicating the empire, with the view of deceiving a number of distinguished men. If not, why, when leaving the Rostra, had he gone to the house of his brother, [Note 1]looking as it did over the Forum, and certain to provoke the gaze of the multitude, rather than to the Aventine, and the family house of his wife [Note 2]? This would have befitted a private individual anxious to shun all appearance of imperial power. But on the contrary, Vitellius retraced his steps to the palace, the very stronghold of the empire; thence issued a band of armed men. One of the most frequented parts of the city was strewed with the corpses of innocent persons. The Capitol itself had not been spared", said Sabinus, "was only a civilian and a member of the Senate, while the rivalry of Vitellius and Vespasian was being settled by conflicts between legions, by the capture of cities, by the capitulation of cohorts; with Spain, Germany, and Britain in revolt, the brother of Vespasian still remained firm to his allegiance, till actually invited to discuss terms of agreement. Peace and harmony bring advantage to the conquered, but only credit to the conqueror. If you repent of your compact, it is not against me, whom you treacherously deceived, that you must draw the sword, nor is it against the son [Note 3] of Vespasian, who is yet of tender age. What would be gained by the slaughter of one old man and one stripling? You should go and meet the legions, and fight there for empire; everything else will follow the issue of that struggle." To these representations the embarrassed Vitellius answered a few words in his own exculpation, throwing all the blame upon the soldiers, with whose excessive zeal his moderation was, he said, unable to cope. He advised Martialis to depart unobserved through a concealed part of the palace, lest he should be killed by the soldiers, as the negotiator of this abhorred convention. Vitellius had not now the power either to command or to forbid. He was no longer emperor, he was merely the cause of war.