The Worlds Famous Orations. Rome (218 B.C.84 A.D.). 1906.
III. To His Soldiers Before Committing Suicide
Otho (A.D. 32A.D. 69)
Born in 32 A.D., died in 69; an associate of Nero, who made him Governor of Lusitania (Portugal); conspired for the overthrow of Galba, and after being proclaimed Emperor, was himself overthrown by Vitellius, whereupon be committed suicide.
TO expose to further perils such spirit and such virtue as you now display, would, I deem, be paying too costly a price for my life. The more brilliant the prospects which you hold out to me, were I disposed to live, the more glorious will be my death. I and Fortune have made trial of each otherfor what length of time is not material; but the felicity which does not promise to last, it is more difficult to enjoy with moderation. Vitellius began the Civil War; and he originated our contest for the princedom. It shall be mine to establish a precedent, by preventing a second battle for it.
By this let posterity judge of Otho. Vitellius shall be blessed with his brother, his wife, and children. I want no revenge, nor consolations. Others have held the sovereign power longer; none has resigned it with equal fortitude. Shall I again suffer so many of the Roman youth, so many gallant armies to be laid low, and cut off from the commonwealth? Let this resolution of yours to die for me, should it be necessary, attend me in my departure; but live on yourselves. Neither let me long obstruct your safety, nor do you retard the proof of my constancy. To descant largely upon our last moments is the act of a dastard spirit. Hold it as an eminent proof of the fixedness of my purpose, that I complain of no man! for to arraign or gods or men is the part of one who fain would live.1
Note 1. Of Othos funeral, Tacitus says: He was borne on the shoulders of the pretorian soldiers, who kissed his hands and his wound amid tears and praises. Some of the soldiers slew themselves at the funeral pile, not from any consciousness of guilt, nor from fear, but in emulation of the bright example of their prince, and to show their affection. At Bedriacum, Placentia, and other camps, numbers of every rank adopted that mode of death. A sepulcher was raised to the memory of Otho, of ordinary structure, but likely to endure. In a note to Mr. Yonges translation, we are reminded that Plutarch visited Othos tomb at Brixellum, now Brescello, on the river Po. Its materials have long since molded away, but the epitaph, written by Martial, still lives. The poet, while admitting that Otho led a dissolute life, adds that in his end he was not inferior to Cato: