|Do not fly Iberia
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Translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb
Book III Chapter 56: Vitellius versus Antonius Primus. On Vitellius[AD 69]
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|While he was haranguing his troops (marvellous to relate) such a multitude of ill-omened birds flew over him, as to obscure with a dark cloud the light of day. There occurred another terrible presage. A bull escaped from the altar, scattered the preparations for sacrifice, and was finally slain far from the spot where the victims are usually struck down. But the most portentous spectacle of all was Vitellius himself, ignorant of military matters and without forethought in his plans, even asking others about the order of march, about the business of reconnoitring, and the discretion to be used in pushing on or protracting the campaign, betraying in his countenance and gait his alarm at every fresh piece of intelligence, and finally drinking to intoxication. At last, weary of the camp, and having received tidings of the defection of the fleet at Misenum, he returned to Rome, trembling at every new disaster, but reckless of the final result. For though it was open to him to have crossed the Apennines with an army in unimpaired vigour, and to have attacked in the field an enemy suffering from cold and scant supplies, yet, by dividing his forces, he abandoned to destruction or capture troops of the keenest courage and faithful to the last, against the judgment of the most experienced among the centurions, who, had they been consulted, would have told him the truth. They were all kept at a distance by the intimate friends of Vitellius; for the emperor's ears were so formed, that all profitable counsels were offensive to him, and that he would hear nothing but what would please and ruin.