Tacitus, Annals

LCL 249: 274-275

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The Annals Of Tacitus

Castris aestivis tres simul legiones habebantur, praesidente Iunio Blaeso, qui, fine Augusti et initiis Tiberii auditis, ob iustitium aut gaudium intermiserat solita munia. Eo principio lascivire miles; discordare, pessimi cuiusque sermonibus praebere auris, denique luxum et otium cupere, disciplinam et laborem aspernari. Erat in castris Percennius quidam, dux olim theatralium operarum, dein gregarius miles, procax lingua et miscere coetus histrionali studio doctus. Is imperitos animos et quaenam post Augustum militiae condicio ambigentis inpellere paulatim nocturnis conloquiis, aut, flexo in vesperam die et dilapsis1 melioribus, deterrimum quemque congregare.

XVII. Postremo promptis iam et aliis seditionis ministris velut contionabundus2 interrogabat cur paucis centurionibus, paucioribus tribunis in modum servorum oboedirent. Quando ausuros exposcere remedia, nisi novum et nutantem adhuc principem precibus vel armis adirent? Satis per tot annos ignavia peccatum, quod tricena aut quadragena stipendia senes et plerique truncato ex vulneribus corpore tolerent. Ne dimissis quidem finem esse militiae, sed apud vexillum tendentis3 alio vocabulo

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The Annals Of Tacitus

of civil war. Three legions were stationed together in summer-quarters under the command of Junius Blaesus. News had come of the end of Augustus and the accession of Tiberius; and Blaesus, to allow the proper interval for mourning or festivity, had suspended the normal round of duty. With this the mischief began. The ranks grew insubordinate and quarrelsome—gave a hearing to any glib agitator—became eager, in short, for luxury and ease, disdainful of discipline and work. In the camp there was a man by the name of Percennius, in his early days the leader of a claque at the theatres, then a private soldier with an abusive tongue, whose experience of stage rivalries had taught him the art of inflaming an audience. Step by step, by conversations at night or in the gathering twilight, he began to play on those simple minds, now troubled by a doubt how the passing of Augustus would affect the conditions of service, and to collect about him the off-scourings of the army when the better elements had dispersed.

XVII. At last, when they were ripe for action—some had now become his coadjutors in sedition—he put his question in something like a set speech:—“Why should they obey like slaves a few centurions and fewer tribunes? When would they dare to claim redress, if they shrank from carrying their petitions, or their swords, to the still unstable throne of a new prince? Mistakes enough had been made in all the years of inaction, when white-haired men, many of whom had lost a limb by wounds, were making their thirtieth or fortieth campaign. Even after discharge their warfare was not accomplished: still under canvas by the colours they endured the

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.tacitus-annals.1931