Friday, March 16, 2012

The Great Events by Famous Historians, Volume 03, by Various - Full Text






So vast and wonderful a construction was the Roman world, so different from our own, that we are apt to imagine it as an arrangement far more deliberately planned, far more mechanically complete, than it appeared to its own inhabitants.
From a cursory glance, we may carry away wholly mistaken conceptions of its thought and purpose. Thus, for instance, the Roman Republic never assumed the definite design of conquering the world; its people had only the vaguest conception of whither the world might extend. They merely quarrelled with their neighbors, defeated and then annexed them.
At almost any time after Hannibal's death, Rome might have marched her legions, practically unopposed, over all the lands within her reach. Yet she permitted a century and a half to elapse ere Pompey asserted her sovereignty over Asia. It was left for Augustus to take the final step, and, by absorbing Egypt, make his country become in name what it had long been in fact, the ruler of the civilized world.
Thus, too, we think of Augustus as a kindly despot, supreme, and governed only by his own will. But his compatriots looked on him as simply the chief citizen of their republic. They considered that of their own free will, to escape the dangers of further civil war, they had chosen to confer upon[Pg xii] one man, eminently "safe and sane," all the high offices whose holders had previously battled against one another. So Augustus was Emperor or Imperator, which meant no more than general of the armies of the Republic; he was Consul, or chief civil administrator of the Republic; he was Pontifex Maximus, high-priest of the Republic. He could have had more titles and offices still if he would have accepted them from an obsequious senate.
But the title of "king," so obnoxious to Roman taste, Augustus never sought, nor did his successors, who were in turn appointed to all his offices. For nearly three centuries after the one-man power had become absolute, Rome continued to call itself a republic, to go through forms of election and ceremonial, which grew ever more and more meaningless and trivial.
Augustus seems to have felt the tremendous weight of his position, and to have tried honestly to divide his authority. He invested the trembling senate with both power and responsibility. In theory, it became as influential as he. But the appointment of its members, and also the supreme control of the armies, remained always with the Imperator; and thus the senate continued in reality little better than a flickering shadow. Under the reign of a well-meaning emperor, it loomed large, and often dilated into a very valuable and honorable body. In the grip of a tyrant, it sank at once to its true aspect of helpless and obsequious submission.


To the outside world the reign of the emperors was welcome. The provinces were governed by salaried officials, whose conduct was seriously investigated. The hideous extortions and cruelties of the governors sent out in the earlier days of the Republic almost disappeared. This milder rule seemed happy in the contrast. An emperor might be a brute at home, but his personal cruelties could scarce spread over an entire world. Money for even the hugest extravagances of only one man, the provinces could supply. At first they scarce felt the drain.
For two entire centuries after Augustus had assumed power, the world flourished and apparently prospered under the[Pg xiii] "Roman peace." The ruins of Pompeii, the tale of its destruction, show how well and how lazily the upper classes and even the masses lived.[1] The legions were scarce needed except for petty wars along the frontier. The defeat inflicted by the German barbarians was avenged, and the northern wilderness seems to have come very near to sharing the fate of Gaul.[2] But the long campaigns were costly and apparently valueless. No taxes flowed into the treasury from the poor half-subjugated savages; and the emperor Tiberius contemptuously declared that he would leave them to fight among themselves. Another frontier strife completed the subjugation of Spain. Another added Britain to the Empire. Another made temporary conquest over Dacia and extended the Asian boundary. There were minor revolts in Gaul.
Then the Jews, roused to sudden religious frenzy and believing themselves invincible, burst into rebellion.[3] Titus stormed their capital and burned their Temple. But the lesson was wasted on the stubborn, fanatical race, and sixty years later they flared out again. Roman relentlessness was roused to its fullest rage, and accomplished against them the destruction of prophecy. Their cities were razed to the ground, and the poor remnant of the race were scattered abroad. Yet, apparently imperishable, refusing to be merged with other men, they remained a people though without a country. They became what they are to-day, a nation of wanderers.[4]
One other tumult, more central and in that sense more serious, intruded on the Roman system. Just a century after the rise of Augustus, the tyrannies of his successor Nero became so unbearable that even his own senate turned against him; and he was slain, without having appointed a successor. The purely military character of the Empire was at once revealed. Different armies each upheld their own general as emperor. The claimants attacked one another in turn, and the strongest won. The turmoil lasted for only a year or so, just long enough for the distant legions to gather around Rome;[Pg xiv] the bloodshed was nothing as compared to former ages; the helpless senate acquiesced in each new proclamation of each successful army; and the rest of the world, scarce even jarred in its daily course, flowed on as before.
On the whole, then, these two hundred years were one long period of peace. It was Augustus who for the first time in centuries closed the gates of the war-god's temple in Rome. He encouraged literature, and we have the "Augustan" age. He boasted that he found Rome built of bricks, and left it of marble. He and his successors did far more than that. They constructed roads extending from end to end of their domains. Communication became easy; a mail post was established; people began to travel for pleasure. The nations of the world intermingled freely, and discovered, for the first time on earth, that they were much alike. The universal brotherhood of man may be not even yet fully recognized and welcomed; but the first step toward its acknowledgment was taken under imperial Rome.


This brings us to a very solemn thought. Many earnest men have believed that they see a divine Providence running through the whole course of history, and nowhere more obvious than here. They point to the careers of both Greece and Rome as being a special preparation for the coming of the Christ. The mission of Greece, they tell us, was to arouse the mind of man, to make him capable of thought and sensitive to spiritual beauty; that of Rome was to teach him the value of law and peace, and yet more, to draw all men together, that all might have opportunity to hear the lessons of the new faith.
Certain it is that at any earlier date it would have seemed practically impossible for a religion to spread beyond a single people. Not only was communication between the nations faint and intermittent, but they were so savage, so suspicious of each other, that a wanderer had to meet them weapon in hand. He must have a ship to flee to or an army at his back. Now, however, under the restraint of Roman law, strangers met and passed without a blow. Latin, the tongue of law, was everywhere partly known. Greek was almost equally widespread as the language of art and culture.[Pg xv]
The Hebrews, too, had done their share in the work of preparation. They had developed the religious sense, beyond any of the Aryan peoples. Their religion had become a part, the main part, of their daily lives. They believed it, not with the languid logic of the Romans, not with the sensuous pleasure of the Greeks, but fiercely, fervidly, with a passion that swept all reason to the winds.
Among them appeared the Christ, born in the days of Augustus, crucified in those of Tiberius.[5] His teaching was mainly the doctrine of love, which Buddha had announced five hundred years before, but which was new to the Roman world; and the promise of life beyond the grave, which many races had more or less believed in, but which never before had been made to carry a vision of such splendor and such glory. He also advocated non-resistance to enemies, a principle which the early Church obeyed, but which has found small favor among the masses of later Christians.
These teachings, then, were none of them wholly unconceived before; but they were enforced by a life so pure, a manner so earnest, as compelled respect. Converts became many; and one of these at least took literally the command of the Master, to proclaim the faith to all peoples of the earth. The apostle Paul, stepping beyond the narrow bounds of Judea, preached Christianity to mankind.[6]
Paul was the first great missionary. The earlier faiths of Greece and Rome had not sought to extend themselves, because they did not recognize the brotherhood of man. The new faith insisted upon this, insisted on our duty to our fellows; and so under Paul's leadership every Christian became a missionary, teaching, uplifting the downtrodden, giving them hope, not of this world, but of an infinitely brighter one. The faith spread faster than ever world conquest had been spread before. Scarce a generation after the Crucifixion it had permeated the Empire, and Nero, to divert from himself the suspicion of having burned Rome, accused the Christians.[7]
[Pg xvi]
This led to their first persecution. They were tortured as a punishment and to extort confession. Most of them stood nobly by their doctrine of non-resistance, and endured heroically a martyrdom which they looked on as opening the gates of heaven.[8]
Their devotion drew to them the first serious notice of the Roman authorities. Hitherto they had been regarded merely as a sect among the Jews. But now, with reluctant admiration of their courage, there came also a recognition of their rapid growth and a suspicion of their motives. The Romans could not understand such devotion to a mere religion; and they always feared lest the faith was something more, a cloak for nameless crimes, or a secret conspiracy of rebellion among their slaves, who would some day turn and rend them.
Thus while Nero's attack on the Christians was in a sense an accident, the blind rush of a half-crazed beast, the later persecutions were often directed by serious and well-intentioned emperors and magistrates. The Romans were far from being intolerant. They had interfered very little with the religions of their subject races, and had, indeed, adopted more than one foreign god into their own temples. They were quite willing that the Christ should be worshipped. What they could not understand was that reverence to one god should forbid reverence to another.
It was the new religion which was intolerant, which, in the passionate intensity of its faith, attacked the old gods, denied their existence, or declared them devils. When a man was summoned before a Roman court on the charge of being a Christian, he was not, as a rule, asked to deny Christ; only, there being a general impression that his sect was evil, he was required to prove his honest citizenship and general good character by doing reverence to the Roman gods.[9]
In spite of persecution, some writers say because of it, Christianity spread. Toward the end of the first two hundred years of the Empire, it seemed about the only prosperous institution in a world which was beginning to go badly. During the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the last of the "good" emperors[Pg xvii] (161-180), troubles, some accidental, some inherent in the Roman system, were gathering very dark.
The curse of inaction, of wealth without liberty, of intellect without a goal to strive toward, had long been corrupting the upper classes. Now, a terrible plague swept the world from end to end, so that laborers became scarce, lands went untenanted, taxes unpaid. The drain of supporting Rome's boundless extravagance, in buildings, feasts, and gladiatorial displays, began to tell upon the provinces at last. Newer and ever harsher methods had to be employed to wring money from exhausted lands. Driven by their sufferings to cling to religion as a support, men thought of it more seriously; and a cry went up that earth was being punished for its neglect and insult of the ancient gods. The Christians were persecuted anew.[10]


The reign of Commodus,[11] son of Marcus Aurelius, marks the beginning of a century which sank almost into anarchy. He was murdered, and his guards auctioned the Empire to the highest bidder. Once more the legions fought against each other and placed their generals upon the throne. During ninety-two years there were twenty-five emperors fully acknowledged, besides a far larger number of claimants who were overthrown before Rome had time to hear of and salute them. The Imperial city was no longer mistress of the world; she was only its capital, as feeble and helpless as the other cities, which these unstable emperors began at times to favor in her stead.
The barbarians also, who through all these ages were growing stronger while Rome grew weaker, became ever a more serious menace. The internal disorder of the Empire left its frontiers often unguarded. The Germans plundered Gaul in the West, the Persians ravaged Asia in the East. In fact, so comparatively strong had the Persians grown that one emperor, venturing against them, was defeated and captured, and lived out his miserable life a Persian slave. Rome could not rescue him.[12]
[Pg xviii]
In the year 284 there came to the front an emperor "of iron," Diocletian. He did what Augustus had done three centuries before, re-formed and recast the government of the world. The last empty ceremonies of the Republic were discarded. Even the pretence of Rome's leadership was brushed aside. The Empire was divided into four districts, each with a capital of its own, and Diocletian selected three other generals to share its rule with him. He and his colleagues restored the long-lost peace. They chastised the barbarians. Diocletian's reforms saved the Roman fabric from what seemed inevitable extinction, and enabled it to exist in some shape for almost another two hundred years.
His system of division did not, however, save the Empire from civil wars. No sooner was his restraining hand removed than his colleagues fought among themselves, until Constantine overthrew his antagonists and once more united the entire Empire. Constantine became a Christian.[13]
It has been repeatedly asserted that his conversion was one of policy rather than belief; and there could be no stronger evidence of the changed position of the new faith. Diocletian had ordered a persecution against it, the last and most terrible which its martyrs suffered. But all that was best and most energetic and most living in the moribund Empire seemed to have gathered round the Church. The persecution did but emphasize its worth and influence.
Constantine did not force his followers to change their beliefs with him; but he encouraged and rewarded those who did. Under him was held the first general council of the faith. The bishops gathered from all the different cities of the world to compare ideas and settle more exactly the doctrines to be taught. Christianity stepped out from its hiding-place and supplanted paganism as the state religion of the Empire.[14]
As though the unimportance of Rome were not thus sufficiently established, Constantine abandoned the decaying capital altogether, and built himself a new city, Constantinople, at the junction of Europe and Asia. This became the centre of the changing world. Built upon the site of an old Greek colony,[Pg xix] it was almost wholly Greek, not only in the nationality of the people who flocked to it, but in the manners of the court which Constantine created around him, in the art of its decorators, in the language of its streets.[15] The Empire remained Roman only in name. The might of a thousand years had made that name a magic spell, had sunk its restraining influence deep in the minds of men. It was not lightly to be thrown aside.
Julian, a nephew of Constantine, who after an interval succeeded him upon the throne, abandoned the adopted religion of his family, and tried to revive paganism.[16] Julian was a powerful and clever man; he seems also to have been an honest and an earnest one. But he could not turn back the current of the world. He could not make shallow speculation take the place of earnest faith. Altruism, the spirit of brotherhood, which was the animating force of Christianity, might and later somewhat did lose itself amid the sands of selfishness; but it could not be combated by one man with a chance preference for egotism.
Julian turned to a worthier purpose. He died fighting the barbarians. These, held back for a time by Diocletian and Constantine, were recommencing their ravages with renewed force. And now a change comes over the character of the invasions. Hitherto they had been mere raids for plunder; but now a huge, far-reaching, racial movement was in progress.
From the distant plains of Asia came the vanguard of the Huns, a race of horsemen, whose swift steeds enabled them to scatter or concentrate at will around slower-paced opponents.[17] The Huns swept over Southern Russia, then occupied by the Goths, the most civilized of the Teutonic tribes. The Goths, finding themselves helpless against the active and fierce marauders, moved onward in their turn. They crossed the Danube, not as a raiding troop, but as an entire nation, and, half begging, half demanding a place of refuge, they penetrated into the world of civilization. With them came fearful stories of the Huns; but these latter, sweeping off in another direction, failed for a while to follow up the fugitives.
[Pg xx]
As for the Goths, after they had defeated and slain one emperor, they were given lands and temporarily subdued by Theodosius the Great, the last ruler to hold the entire Roman domain. In 395 Theodosius, dying, divided his possessions, quite like a hereditary monarch, between his two sons, both mere boys.[18] To the elder he gave Constantinople and the East, to the younger Rome and the West. So instead of one kingdom there were two. Partly through its own disorganization, partly from the pressure of the barbarians, the Roman world had burst and fallen into halves. These proved two very helpless and feeble halves in the hands of their boy rulers; and the eager Teutons, finding themselves no longer withheld, began that remarkable series of plundering invasions by which they overwhelmed the ancient world.


[1] See Destruction of Pompeii, page 207.
[2] See Germanicus in Germany, page 1.
[3] See Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem, page 150.
[4] See Jews' Last Struggle for Freedom, page 222.
[5] See The Crucifixion, page 23.
[6] See Rise and Spread of Christianity, page 40.
[7] See Burning of Rome under Nero, page 108.
[8] See Persecution of the Christians under Nero, page 134.
[9] See Martyrdom of Polycarp and Justin Martyr, page 231.
[10] See Persecutions of Christians in Gaul, page 246.
[11] See Beginning of Rome's Decline, page 263.
[12] See Eventful Reign of Sapor I, King of Persia, page277.
[13] See Conversion of Constantine, page 289.
[14] See First Nicene Council, page 297.
[15] See Foundation of Constantinople, page 320.
[16] See Julian the Apostate, page 333.
[17] See The Huns and Their Western Migration, page 352.
[18] See Final Division of the Roman Empire, page 364.

[Pg 1]


A.D. 13-16


When the Germans first became known to the Romans—about b.c.112—they showed themselves as warlike tribes along the northern borders of Italy and in various parts of Gaul, where Cæsar afterward had frequent encounters with them, driving them across the Rhine into their own country. But Cæsar's knowledge of them was confined to those tribes whose dwellings were near the Rhine, beyond which he did not pursue them.
Augustus fortified against the Germans along the Rhine, and Drusus, his step-son, took command against them, defeating them in several expeditions (b.c. 13-9). As a reward, he received for himself and his posterity the surname of Germanicus, conqueror of Germany. He died at the age of thirty.
His son, Germanicus, born b.c. 14, was sent, in a.d. 12, to command the forces on the Rhine. After quelling serious mutinies among his legions he crossed the Rhine and attacked and routed some of the German tribes who had been actively aggressive against the Romans. During the following year he defeated other tribes, and after his return across the Rhine he was persuaded by Segestes to aid him against his son-in-law Arminius (the Latin name for Herman), by whom Segestes was besieged and who, according to Tacitus, became in the end the deliverer of Germany from the power of the Romans. But before he was able to render this service to the German peoples he had many hardships to endure, and at the hands of Germanicus he met with severe reverses.
Arminius had defeated Varus, who, by reason of that disgrace, killed himself (a.d. 10), and the despatch of Germanicus to command the German legions was ordered in the first instance to revenge the overthrow of his predecessor. Although it required several campaigns, the work of Germanicus was so effectual that he withdrew in the end, at the command of Tiberius, with advantage on his side, and, returning to Rome, enjoyed a triumph (a.d. 17). His name is preserved in history, alike for his military talents and services, for his attainments in literary pursuits, and his nobleness of mind.
In the consulship of Drusus Cæsar and Caius Norbanus a triumph was decreed to Germanicus; the war continuing. He was preparing with all diligence to prosecute it in the summer, but anticipated it by a sudden irruption early in the[Pg 2] spring into the territories of the Cattians: for he had conceived a hope that the enemy was divided into opposite parties under Arminius and Segestes, both remarkable for perfidy or fidelity toward us: Arminius was the incendiary of Germany, but Segestes had given repeated warning of an intended revolt at other times and during the banquet immediately preceding the insurrection, and advised Varus "to secure him and Arminius and all the other chiefs; that the multitude, bereft of their leaders, would not dare to attempt anything; and Varus would have an opportunity to separate the guilty from the innocent." But fate decreed it, and he was slain by Arminius. Segestes, though drawn into the war by the universal agreement of the nation in it, yet continued to disapprove of it; his detestation being augmented by motives of a domestic nature, for Arminius had carried away the daughter of Segestes, already betrothed to another: the son-in-law hated, the fathers-in-law were at enmity; and those relations which are bonds of affection between friends fomented the animosities of enemies.
Germanicus therefore handed over to Cæcina four legions, five thousand auxiliaries, and some tumultuous bands of Germans who dwelt on this side the Rhine; he led, himself, as many legions, with double the number of allies, and erecting a fort in Mount Taunus, upon the site of one raised by his father, he pushed on in light marching order against the Cattians; having left Lucius Apronius to secure the roads and the rivers, for, as the roads were dry and the rivers within bounds—events in that climate of rare occurrence—he had found no check in his rapid march, but on his return apprehended the violent rains and floods. He fell upon the Cattians with such surprise that all the weak (through sex or age) were instantly taken or slaughtered. The young men swam over the Adrana and endeavored to obstruct the Romans, who commenced building a bridge; then, repulsed by engines and arrows and having in vain tried terms of peace—after some had gone over to Germanicus—the rest abandoned their cantons and villages and dispersed themselves into the woods. Mattium, the capital of the nation, he burned, ravaged the open country, and bent his march to the Rhine; nor durst the enemy harass his rear, which is their custom whenever they have fled, more from craft[Pg 3]than fear. The Cheruscans had purposed to assist the Cattians, but were deterred by Cæcina, who moved about with his forces from place to place; and the Marsians, who dared to engage him, he checked by a victory.
Soon after arrived deputies from Segestes, praying relief against the violence of his countrymen, by whom he was besieged; Arminius having more influence with them than himself, because he advised war, for with barbarians the more resolute in daring a man is the more he is trusted and preferred in times of commotion. To the deputies Segestes had added Segimund, his son; but the young man hesitated from self-conviction; for the year when Germany revolted, having been created priest at the Ubian altar, he had rent the fillets and fled to the revolters: yet, induced to rely upon Roman clemency, he undertook the execution of his father's orders, was graciously received, and conducted with a guard to the Gallic bank of the Rhine. Germanicus thought it worth while to march back, fought the besiegers, and rescued Segestes with a numerous train of his relations and followers, in which were ladies of illustrious rank, and among them the wife of Arminius—the same who was the daughter of Segestes—with a spirit more like that of her husband than her father; neither subdued to tears, nor uttering the language of supplication, but her hands folded within her bosom, and her eyes fixed upon her teeming womb. There were, likewise, carried off the spoils taken at the slaughter of Varus and his army, and given as booty to most of those who then surrendered.
At the same time appeared Segestes himself, of vast stature, and undaunted in the consciousness of his fidelity. In this manner he spoke: "This is not the first day that I have approved my faith and constancy to the Roman people: from the moment I was by the deified Augustus presented with the freedom of the city I have chosen my friends and enemies with reference to your interests, and that not from hatred of my country—for odious are traitors even to the party they prefer—but, because the interests of the Romans and Germans were the same, and because I was inclined to peace rather than war. For this reason, before Varus, the then general, I arraigned Arminius, the ravisher of my daughter and the violator of the[Pg 4] league with you. Put off, from the supineness of the general, and seeing there was little protection in the laws, I importuned him to throw into irons myself and Arminius and his accomplices: witness that night—to me I would rather it had been the last! More to be lamented than defended are the events which followed. However, I cast Arminius into irons, and was myself cast into irons by his faction: and now, on the first opportunity of conferring with you, I prefer old things to new, peace to turbulence; and at the same time I might be a fitting mediator for the German nation, with no view of reward, but to clear myself of perfidy, if they would rather repent than be destroyed. For the youth and inexperience of my son I implore pardon. I admit my daughter has been brought into this state by constraint; it will be yours to consider which should preponderate with you—that she is the wife of Arminius or the daughter of Segestes." The answer of Germanicus was gracious: he promised indemnity to his children, and kindred, and to himself, as a retreat, a place called "Vetera," in the province; then returned with his army, and by the direction of Tiberius received the title of Imperator.
Queen Thusnelda, wife of Arminius, taken prisoner by the
soldiers of the Roman general GermanicusQueen Thusnelda, wife of Arminius, taken prisoner by the soldiers of the Roman general Germanicus

Painting by H. Koenig
The account circulated of the surrender of Segestes, and his gracious reception, affected his countrymen with hope or anguish as they were severally prone or averse to the war. Acting upon a temper naturally violent, the captivity of his wife and the child in her womb subjected to bondage drove Arminius to distraction: he flew about among the Cheruscans, calling them to arms against Segestes, against Germanicus; nor did he refrain from invectives—"An excellent father! a great general; a valiant army, whose many hands had carried off one bit of a woman! That before him three legions fell, three lieutenants-general; for his method of carrying on war was not by treason nor against pregnant women, but openly, against armed hosts. That the Roman standards were still to be seen in the German groves, there suspended by him to his country's gods. Segestes might live upon the vanquished bank; he might get the priesthood restored to his son; but the Germans would ever regard the fellow as the guilty cause of their having seen between the Elbe and Rhine rods and axes and the toga. That to other nations who know not the Roman[Pg 5] domination, executions and tributes were unknown; and as they had thrown them off, and as Augustus (he who was enrolled with the gods) had retreated without accomplishing his object, and Tiberius, his chosen successor, let them not dread an inexperienced stripling and a mutinous army. If they preferred their country, their parents, and their ancient possessions, to masters and new settlements, they should follow Arminius, who led them to glory and liberty, rather than Segestes, who conducted them to infamous servitude."
By these means not the Cheruscans only were roused, but the bordering nations; and Inguiomer, paternal uncle to Arminius, a man long in high credit with the Romans, was drawn into the confederacy. Hence Germanicus became more alarmed, and to prevent the war falling upon him with unbroken force, sent Cæcina with forty Roman cohorts to the river Amisia, through the territories of the Bructerians, to effect a division in the army of the enemy. Pedo, the prefect, led the cavalry along the confines of the Frisians; he himself, embarking four legions, sailed through the lakes; and at the aforesaid river the whole body met—foot, horse, and fleet. The Chaucians, upon offering their assistance, were taken into the service; but the Bructerians, setting fire to their effects and dwellings, were routed by Lucius Stertinius, despatched against them by Germanicus with a band lightly armed. And amid the carnage and plunder he found the eagle of the Nineteenth legion lost in the overthrow of Varus. The army marched next to the farthest borders of the Bructerians, and the whole country between the rivers Amisia and Luppia was laid waste. Not far hence lay the forest of Teutoburgium, and in it the bones of Varus and the legions, by report, still unburied.
Germanicus, therefore, conceived a desire to pay the last offices to the legions and their leader; while the whole of the army present were moved to deep commiseration for their kinsmen and friends, and generally for the calamities of war and the condition of humanity. Cæcina having been sent before to explore the gloomy recesses of the forest, and to lay bridges and causeways over the watery portions of the morasses and insecure places in the plains, they enter the doleful scene, hideous in appearance and association. The first camp of Varus[Pg 6] appeared in view. The extent of ground and the measurement of the principia left no doubt that the whole was the work of three legions. After that a half-decayed rampart with a shallow foss, where their remains, now sadly reduced, were understood to have sunk down. In the intervening portion of the plain were whitening bones, either scattered or accumulated, according as they had fled or had made a stand. Near them lay fragments of javelins and limbs of horses. There were also skulls fixed upon the trunks of trees. In the adjacent groves were the savage altars, where they had immolated the tribunes and centurions of the first rank. Those who survived the slaughter, having escaped from captivity and the sword, related the sad particulars to the rest: "Here the commanders of the legions were slain; there we lost the eagles; here Varus had his first wound; there he gave himself another, and perished by his own unhappy hand. In that place, too, stood the tribunal whence Arminius harangued. How many gibbets he erected for the execution of his captives; what trenches he dug; and how, in proud scorn, he made a mock at the standards and eagles."
The Roman army which was on the spot buried the bones of the three legions six years after the slaughter: nor could anyone distinguish whether he buried the remains of a stranger or of a kinsman; but all considered the whole as friends, as relations, with heightened resentment against the foe, at once sad and revengeful. Germanicus laid the first sod used in raising a tomb, thus rendering a most acceptable service to the dead, and showing that he shared the sorrows of the living, a proceeding not liked by Tiberius; whether it were that upon every action of Germanicus he put a malignant construction, or that he believed that the impression produced by the sight of the unburied slain would dampen the ardor of the army for battle and inspire them with fear of the enemy. He also said that "A general invested with the office of augur and the most ancient religious functions ought not to have put his hand to the ceremonies of the dead."
Arminius, retiring into pathless places, was pursued by Germanicus, who, as soon as he reached him, commanded the horse to advance and dislodge the enemy from the post he had[Pg 7] possessed. Arminius, having directed his men to keep close together and draw near to the wood, wheeled suddenly about, and to those whom he had hid in the forest gave the signal to rush out. Then the Roman horse were thrown into disorder by the assault of a new army, and the cohorts sent out to support them, broken in upon by the body of troops that fled, had augmented the consternation, and were now being pushed into the morass—a place well known to the pursuers, but dangerous to those unacquainted with it—had not Germanicus drawn out the legions in order of battle. Hence the enemy became terrified, our men reanimated, and both retired without advantage on either side. Germanicus, soon after, returning with the army to the Amisia, reconducted the legions, as he had brought them, in the fleet; part of the horse were ordered to march along the sea-shore to the Rhine. Cæcina, who led his own men, was warned that, though he was to return through well-known roads, yet he should with all speed pass the causeway called the Long Bridges. It is a narrow causeway, between vast marshes, and formerly raised by Lucius Domitius. The rest of the country is of a moist nature, either tough and sticky from a heavy kind of clay or dangerous from the streams which intersect it. Round about are woods which rise gently from the plain, which at that time were filled with soldiers by Arminius, who, by short cuts and quick marching, had arrived there before our men, who were loaded with arms and baggage. Cæcina, who was perplexed how at once to repair the causeway decayed by time and to repulse the foe, resolved to encamp in the place, that while some were employed in the work, others might begin the fight.
The barbarians, having made a vigorous effort to break through the outposts and fall upon those employed in the works, harass the troops, march round them, and throw themselves in their way. A mingled shout arose from the workmen and the combatants; all things equally combined to distress the Romans—the place deep with ooze, sinking under those who stood, slippery to such as advanced; their bodies were encumbered with their coats of mail, nor could they hurl their javelins in the midst of water. The Cheruscans, on the contrary, were inured to encounters in the bogs: their persons tall; their[Pg 8] spears long, so as to wound at a distance. At last the legions, already giving way, were saved from defeat by the approach of night; the Germans not feeling fatigue on account of their success, without refreshing themselves with sleep, even then diverted all the courses of the springs which rise in the neighboring mountains into the plains; thus the ground being flooded, and the work, as far as they had carried it, overturned, the soldiers had all to do over again. Cæcina, who had served forty years, either under others or in command, was experienced in the vicissitudes of war, prosperous or disastrous, and thence undaunted. Weighing, therefore, all probabilities, he could devise no other expedient than that of restraining the enemy to the wood until he had sent forward all the wounded and baggage; for between the mountains and the marshes there stretched a plain large enough to admit a small army. To this purpose the legions selected were: The Fifth, for the right wing, and Twenty-first, for the left; the soldiers of the First legion to lead the van of the Twentieth to oppose the pursuers.
It was a restless night to both armies, but from different causes. The barbarians, with festive carousals, songs of triumph, or horrid cries, filled the vales below and echoing wood. Among the Romans were feeble fires, low broken murmurs; they leaned, drooping here and there, against the pales, or wandered about the tents, more like men wanting sleep than quite awake. The general, too, was alarmed by direful visions during his sleep; he thought he heard, and saw, Quintilius Varus, rising out of the marsh, all besmeared with blood, stretching forth his hand and calling upon him, but that he rejected the call, and pushed back his hand as he held it toward him. At break of day the legions, posted on the wings, whether from perverseness or fear, deserted their post and took sudden possession of a field beyond the bogs; neither did Arminius fall straight upon them, though they lay open to assault; but when the baggage was set fast in the mire and ditches, the soldiers about it in disorder, the order of the standards confounded, and—as usual at such a time—each man acting hastily for himself, when the ears are slow to catch the word of command, he then commanded his Germans to charge, exclaiming vehemently, "Behold! Varus and his legions again subdued by[Pg 9]the same fate!" Thus he cried, and instantly, with a select body, broke through the mass, and chiefly against the horse directed his weapons. Floundering in their own blood and the slippery soil of the marsh, they threw their riders, overturned all they met, and trampled on those that were on the ground. The greatest distress was around the eagles, which could neither be carried against a shower of darts nor be planted in the slimy ground. Cæcina, while he sustained the fight, had his horse shot and, having fallen, would have been overpowered had not the First legion come up to succor him. Our relief came from the greediness of the enemy, who ceased slaying, to seize the spoil. And the legions, as the day closed in, by great exertion got into the open and firm ground. Nor was this the end of their miseries; a palisade was to be raised, an intrenchment digged; their instruments, too, for throwing up and carrying earth, and their tools for cutting turf, were almost all lost. No tents for the soldiers; no remedies for the wounded. While dividing among them their food, defiled with mire or blood, they lamented that mournful night; they lamented the approaching day, to so many thousand men the last.
It happened that a horse which had broken his fastenings and, as he strayed about, become frightened by a noise, had run over some that were in his way. This raised such a consternation in the camp—from a persuasion that the Germans had forced an entrance—that all rushed to the gates, especially to the postern,[19] as the farthest from the foe and safer for flight. Cæcina having ascertained that there was no cause for alarm, but unable to stop them or hold them back, either by his authority or prayers or even by force, prostrated himself on the threshold of the gate; and thus at length by appealing to their humanity—for if they proceeded it must be over the body of the general—he blocked the passage, and the tribunes and centurions satisfied them the while that it was a false alarm.
[Pg 10]
Then assembling them in the court, and desiring them to hear him with silence, he warned them of their difficulties, and their duty under them: "That their sole hope of safety was in their valor, but that must be guided by counsel; that they must keep close within their camp till the enemy, in hopes of taking it by storm, came up nearer to them; then make a sudden sally on every side, that by this sally they might make good their way to the Rhine; but if they fled, more forests, deeper marshes, and the fierce attack of the foe still remained to them; but that if they conquered, honor and renown awaited them." He reminded them of all that was dear to them at home, and the rewards to be obtained in the camp, but suppressed all mention of defeat. He next distributed horses, first his own, then those of the tribunes and leaders of the legions, to all the bravest warriors, without any flattery, that these first, and afterward the infantry, might charge the enemy.
The Germans were in no less agitation from hope, eagerness, and the opposite counsels of their leaders. Arminius proposed "To let them march out, and to beset them again in their way when they got into marshes and difficult passes." Inguiomer advised measures more resolute and acceptable to barbarians—"To invest the camp; it would be quickly captured; there would be more captives, and the plunder uninjured." As soon therefore as it was light, they level the ditch, cast hurdles into it, attempt to scale the palisade, there being but few men on the rampart, and those who were, standing as if paralyzed by fear. But when they were hampered in the fortifications, the signal was given to the cohorts; the cornets and trumpets sounded at once, and instantly, shouting and charging, they poured down upon their rear, telling them tauntingly "that there were no thickets, no marshes, but equal chances in a fair field." The enemy, expecting an easy conquest, and that the Romans were few and half-armed, were overpowered with the sounds of trumpets and glitter of arms, which were then magnified in proportion as they were unexpected; and they fell like men who, as they are void of moderation in prosperity, are also destitute of conduct in distress. Arminius fled from the fight unhurt, Inguiomer severely wounded. The men were slaughtered as long as day and rage lasted. At length, at[Pg 11] night, the legions returned, and though distressed by the same want of provisions and more wounds, yet in victory they found all things—health, vigor, and abundance.
Meanwhile a report had spread that an army was cut off, and a body of Germans on full march to invade Gaul; so that, under the terror of this news, there were those whose cowardice would have emboldened them to demolish the bridge upon the Rhine, had not Agrippina forbidden the infamous attempt. This high-minded woman took upon herself all the duties of a general, and distributed to the soldiers, gratuitously, medicines and clothes, according as anyone was in want or wounded. Caius Plinius, the writer of the German wars, relates that she stood at the head of the bridge as the legions returned, and bestowed on them thanks and praises; a behavior which sunk deep into the heart of Tiberius, for these attentions he thought were not disinterested; nor was it against foreigners she sought to win the army; for nothing was now left the generals to do, when a woman paid her visits of inspection to the companies, attended the standards, and presumed to distribute largesses; as if before she had shown but small tokens of ambitious designs in carrying her child (the son of the general) in a soldier's uniform about the camp and desiring that he be styled Cæsar Caligula. Already Agrippina was in greater credit with the army than the lieutenants-general, or even the generals—a woman had suppressed a sedition which the authority of the Emperor was not able to restrain. These jealousies were inflamed and ministered to by Sejanus, who was well acquainted with the temper of Tiberius, and supplied him with materials for hatred, prospectively, that he might treasure them up in his heart and draw them out augmented in bitterness.
Germanicus handed over the Second and Fourteenth of the legions, which he had brought in ships, to Publius Vitellius to conduct them by land, that his fleet, thus lightened, might sail on the shoally sea, or run aground with safety when the tide ebbed. Vitellius at first marched without interruption while the ground was dry or the tide flowed within bounds. Presently the ocean beginning to swell by the action of the northwest wind upon it, and also by the influence of the equinoxial constellation—at which season the sea swells most—the troops[Pg 12] were miserably harassed and driven about. The lands were completely inundated; the sea, the shore, the fields, had one uniform face: no distinction of depths from shallows, of firm from treacherous footing; they were overturned by billows, absorbed by the eddies; beasts of burden, baggage, and dead bodies floated among them and came in contact with them. The several companies were mixed at random, wading now breast high, now up to their chin; sometimes, the ground failing them, they fell, some never more to rise. Their cries and mutual encouragements availed them nothing; the noise of the water drowning them; no difference between the coward and the brave, the wise and the foolish; none between circumspection and hap-hazard, but all were involved in the sweeping torrent. Vitellius at length, having by great exertion gained the higher ground, withdrew the legions thither, where they passed the night without fire and without food, many of them naked or lamed, not less miserable than men enclosed by an enemy—for even such had the resource of an honorable death, while these must perish ingloriously. Daylight restored the land, and they marched to the river Unsingis, whither Germanicus had gone with the fleet. The legions were then embarked, while rumor reported that they were sunk; nor was their escape believed until Germanicus and the army were seen to return.
Stertinius, who had been sent before to receive the submission of Sigimer, the brother of Segestes, had now brought him and his son to the city of the Ubians; both were pardoned, the father promptly, the son with more hesitation, because he was said to have insulted the corpse of Varus. For the rest, Spain, Italy, and the Gauls vied in supplying the losses of the army, offering arms, horses, money, whatever each had at hand. Germanicus, applauding their zeal, accepted only the horses and arms for the war; with his own money he assisted the soldiers; and, to soften by kindness also the memory of the late disaster, he visited the wounded, extolled the exploits of individuals, and, looking at their wounds, with hopes encouraged some, with a sense of glory animated others, and by affability and attention confirmed them all in devotion to himself and to his service. Between the Romans and the Cheruscans flowed the river Visurgis. On its bank stood Arminius, with the[Pg 13] other chiefs, inquiring whether Germanicus was come; and being answered that he was there, he prayed leave to speak with his brother. This brother of his was in the army, his name Flavius, remarkable for his fidelity, and for the loss of an eye under Tiberius. Permission was then granted. Flavius, advancing, was saluted by Arminius, who having removed his own attendants, requested that the archers ranged upon our bank might retire. When they were gone—"How came you," he asked his brother, "by that deformity in your face?" The brother having informed him where and in what fight, he desired to know "what reward he had received"? Flavius answered, "Increase of pay, the chain, the crown, and other military gifts"; which Arminius treated with derision, as the vile wages of servitude.
After that they began in different strains. Flavius urged "the Roman greatness, the power of Cæsar, the severe punishment inflicted on the vanquished; and the clemency vouchsafed to those who submitted; that neither the wife nor son of Arminius was treated as a captive." Arminius to this opposed "the claims of country, their hereditary liberty, the domestic gods of Germany; their mother, who joined in his prayer that he would not prefer the character of a deserter, and a betrayer of his kinsmen and connections, in short, of his race, to that of their general." From this they gradually proceeded to invectives; nor would the interposition of the river have restrained them from an encounter, had not Stertinius, running to him, held back Flavius, full of rage and calling for his arms and his horse. On the opposite side was seen Arminius, menacing furiously and proclaiming battle. For most of what he said in this dialogue was in Latin, having, as the general of his countrymen, served in the Roman camp.
Next day the German army stood in order of battle beyond the Visurgis. Germanicus, who thought it became not a general to endanger the legions in the passage without bridges and guards, made the horse ford over. They were led by Stertinius and Æmilius, one of the principal centurions, who entered the river at distant places to divide the attention of the foe. Cariovalda, captain of the Batavians, dashed through where the stream was most rapid, and was by the Cheruscans—who[Pg 14]feigned flight—drawn into a plain surrounded by woods. Then starting up at once, and pouring upon him on every side, they overthrew those who resisted, and pressed after those who gave way, who at length, forming themselves into a circle, were assailed by some hand-to-hand, by others were annoyed by missiles. Cariovalda, having long sustained the fury of the enemy, exhorted his men to break through the assailing bands in a solid body; he himself charged into the thickest, and fell under a shower of darts—his horse also being killed—and many nobles fell around him. The rest were saved by their own bravery, or by the cavalry under Stertinius and Æmilius, which came up to their assistance.
Germanicus, having passed the Visurgis, learned from a deserter that Arminius had marked out the place of battle; that more tribes also had joined him at a wood sacred to Hercules, and would attempt to storm our camp by night. The deserter was believed, the enemy's fires were in view, and the scouts, having advanced toward them, reported that they heard the neighing of horses and the murmur of a mighty and tumultuous host. Being thus upon the eve of a decisive battle, Germanicus thought it behooved him to learn the sentiments of the soldiers, and deliberated with himself how to get at the truth; "the reports of the tribunes and centurions were oftener agreeable than true; the freedmen had servile spirits; friends were apt to flatter; if an assembly were called, there, too, the counsel proposed by a few was carried by the clamorous plaudits of the rest. The minds of soldiers could, then, only be thoroughly known when, by themselves, free from all restraint, and over their mess, they gave unreserved utterance to their hopes and fears."
At nightfall, taking the path leading by the place of divination,[20] he went out with a single attendant, a deerskin covering his shoulders,[21]and proceeding by a secret way where there were no sentinels, entered the avenues of the camp, stationed himself near the tents, and eagerly listened to what was said of himself, while one magnified the imperial birth of his general,[Pg 15] another his graceful person, very many his firmness, condescension, and the evenness of his temper, whether seriously occupied or in moments of relaxation; and they confessed that their sense of his merits should be shown in battle, protesting at the same time that those traitors and violators of peace should be made a sacrifice to vengeance and to fame. In the mean time one of the enemy who understood Latin rode up to the palisades, and with a loud voice offered, in the name of Arminius, to every deserter a wife and land, and, as long as the war lasted, a hundred sesterces a day. This affront kindled the wrath of the legions. "Let day come," they cried, "battle should be given, the soldiers would themselves take the lands of the Germans, lead away wives by right of conquest; they, however, welcomed the omen, and considered the wealth and women of the enemy their destined prey." About the third watch[22] an attempt was made upon the camp, but not a dart was discharged, as they found the cohorts planted thick upon the works, and nothing neglected that was necessary for a vigorous defence.
Germanicus had the same night a cheering dream: he thought he sacrificed, and, in place of his own robe besmeared with the blood of the victim, received one fairer from the hands of his grandmother Augusta. Elated by the omen, and the auspices being favorable, he called an assembly, and laid before them what in his judgment seemed likely to be advantageous and suitable for the impending battle. He said "that to the Roman soldiers not only plains, but, with due circumspection, even woods and forests were convenient. The huge targets, the enormous spears of the barbarians, could never be wielded among trunks of trees and thickets of underwood shooting up from the ground like Roman swords and javelins, and armor fitting the body; that they should reiterate their blows, and aim at the face with their swords. The Germans had neither helmet nor coat of mail; their bucklers were not even strengthened with leather or iron, but mere contextures of twigs, and boards of no substance flourished over with paint; their first rank was armed with pikes, in some sort, the rest had only[Pg 16] stakes burned at the end, or short darts. And now to come to their persons, as they were terrific to sight, and vigorous enough for a brief effort, so they were utterly impatient of wounds; unaffected with shame for misconduct, and destitute of respect for their generals. They would quit their posts or run away before the enemy; cowards in adversity, in prosperity despisers of all divine, of all human laws; if weary of marches and sea voyages, they wished an end of these things, by this battle it was presented to them. The Elbe was now nearer than the Rhine; there was nothing to subdue beyond this; they had only to place him, crowned with victory, in the same country which had witnessed the triumphs of his father and uncle, in whose footsteps he was treading." The ardor of the soldiers was kindled by this speech of the general, and the signal for the onset was given.
Neither did Arminius or the other chiefs neglect solemnly to assure their several bands that "these were Romans; the most desperate fugitives of the Varian army, who, to avoid the hardships of war, had put on the character of rebels; who, without any hope of success, were again braving the angry gods, and exposing to their exasperated foes, some of them backs burdened with wounds, others limbs enfeebled with the effects of storms and tempests. Their motive for having recourse to a fleet and the pathless regions of the ocean was that no one might oppose them as they approached or pursue them when repulsed; but when they engaged hand-to-hand, vain would be the help of winds and oars after a defeat. The Germans needed only remember their rapine, cruelty, and pride; was any other course left them than to maintain their liberty, and, if they could not do that, to die before they took a yoke upon them?"
The enemy thus inflamed, and calling for battle, were led into a plain called Idistavisus. It lies between the Visurgis and the hills, and winds irregularly along, as it is encroached upon by the projecting bases of the mountains or enlarged by the receding banks of the river. At their rear rose a majestic forest, the branches of the trees shooting up into the air, but the ground clear between their trunks. The army of barbarians occupied the plain and the entrances of the forest; the Cheruscans alone sat in ambush upon the mountain, in order to pour[Pg 17] down from thence upon the Romans when engaged in the fight. Our army marched thus: the auxiliary Gauls and Germans in front, after them the foot archers, next four legions, and then Germanicus with two prætorian cohorts and the choice of the cavalry; then four legions more, and the light foot with the mounted archers, and the other cohorts of the allies; the men were on the alert and in readiness, so that the order of march might form the order of battle when they halted.
As the bands of Cheruscans who had impatiently rushed forward were now perceived, Germanicus commanded the most efficient of his horse to charge them in the flank, and Stertinius with the rest to wheel round to attack them in the rear, and promised to be ready to assist them at the proper moment. Meanwhile an omen of happiest import appeared; eight eagles, seen to fly toward the wood and to enter it, caught the eye of the general. "Advance!" he cried, "follow the Roman birds; follow the tutelar deities of the legions!"
At once the foot charged, and the cavalry sent forward attacked their flank and rear, and, strange to relate, the two divisions of their army fled opposite ways; that in the wood ran to the plain, that in the plain rushed into the wood. The Cheruscans between both were driven from the hills; among them Arminius formed a conspicuous object, while with his hand, his voice, and the exhibition of his wounds he strove to sustain the fight. He had vigorously assaulted the archers, and would have broken through them had not the cohorts of the Rhætians, the Vindelicians, and the Gauls advanced to oppose him. However, by his own personal effort and the impetus of his horse he made good his passage, his face besmeared with his own blood to avoid being known. Some have related that the Chaucians, who were among the Roman auxiliaries, knew him and let him go; the same bravery or stratagem procured Inguiomer his escape; the rest were slain on all hands; great numbers attempting to swim the Visurgis perished either by the darts showered after them or the violence of the current, or, if they escaped these, they were overwhelmed by the weight of the rushing crowd and the banks which fell upon them. Some, seeking an ignominious refuge, climbed to the tops of trees, and, concealing themselves among the branches, were shot in sport[Pg 18] by the archers, who were brought up for the purpose; others were dashed against the ground as the trees were felled. This was a great victory, and withal achieved without loss on our side.
This slaughter of the foe, from the fifth hour[23] of the day until night, filled the country for ten miles with carcasses and arms. Among the spoils, chains were found, which, sure of conquering, they had brought to bind the Roman captives. The soldiers saluted Tiberius as "Imperator"[24] upon the field of battle, and, raising a mount, placed upon it, after the manner of trophies, the German arms, with the names of all the vanquished nations inscribed below.
This sight filled the Germans with more anguish and rage than all their wounds, afflictions, and overthrows. They, who were just now prepared to abandon their dwellings and retire beyond the Elbe, meditate war and grasp their arms; people, nobles, youth, aged, all rush suddenly upon the Roman army in its march and disorder it. Lastly, they chose a position shut in by a river and a forest, the inner space being a confined and humid plain; the forest, too, surrounded with a deep marsh, except that the Angrivarii had elevated one side by erecting a broad mound to part them and the Cheruscans. Here their foot were posted; their horse were concealed among the neighboring groves, that they might be on the rear of the legions when they had entered the wood.
Nothing of all this was a secret to Germanicus. He knew their counsels, their stations, their overt movements and their concealed measures; and turned their subtlety to the destruction of themselves. To Seius Tubero, his lieutenant, he committed[Pg 19] the horse and the plain; the infantry he so formed that part might pass the level approaches into the wood, and the rest force their way up the rampart; whatever was arduous he reserved to himself, the rest he committed to his lieutenants. Those who had the even ground to traverse easily forced an entrance; but they who were to storm the rampart were battered from above, as if they had been assaulting a wall. The general perceived the inequality of this close encounter, and, drawing off the legions a small distance, ordered the slingers and engineers to discharge their missiles and dislodge the enemy. Immediately darts were poured from the engines, and the defenders of the barrier, the more conspicuous they were, with the more wounds were beaten down. Germanicus, having taken the rampart, first forced his way at the head of the prætorian cohorts into the wood, and there fought, foot-to-foot. Behind the enemy was the morass, behind the Romans the mountains or the river; no room for either to retreat, no hope but in valor, no safety but in victory.
The Germans were not inferior in courage, but in their method of fighting and the nature of their arms; as their vast numbers, hampered in narrow places, could not push forward, nor recover their immense spears, nor practise their usual assaults and rapid motions, being compelled by their crowded condition to adopt a stationary manner of fighting. On the contrary, our soldiers, with shields fitted to their breasts, and their hands firmly grasping their sword hilts, could gash the brawny limbs and naked faces of the barbarians, and open themselves a way with havoc to the enemy. Besides, the activity of Arminius now failed him, being either exhausted by a succession of disasters or disabled by his recent wound. Nay, Inguiomer, too, who flew from place to place throughout the battle, was abandoned by fortune rather than courage. Germanicus, to be the easier known, pulled off his helmet, and exhorted his men "to prosecute the slaughter; they wanted no captives," he said; "the extermination of the people alone would put an end to the war!" It was now late in the day and he drew off a legion to pitch a camp; the rest glutted themselves till night with the blood of the foe; the horse fought with doubtful success.[Pg 20]
Germanicus, having in a public harangue praised his victorious troops, raised a pile of arms with this proud inscription: "That the army of Tiberius Cæsar, having subdued the nations between the Rhine and the Elbe, had consecrated these memorials to Mars, to Jupiter, and to Augustus." Of himself he made no mention; either fearful of provoking envy or that he felt satisfied with the consciousness of his own merit. He next charged Stertinius with the war among the Angrivarians, and he would have proceeded had they not made haste to submit; approaching as supplicants, and making a full confession of their guilt, they received pardon without reserve.
The summer being now far advanced, some of the legions were sent back into winter quarters by land; the greater part Cæsar put on board the fleet and conveyed them along the Amisia to the ocean. The sea, at first serene, resounded only with the oars of a thousand ships or their impulse when under sail; but presently a shower of hail poured down from a black mass of clouds; at the same time storms raging on all sides in every variety, the billows rolling now here, now there, obstructed the view and made it impossible to manage the ships. The soldiers, too, unaccustomed to the perils of the sea, in their alarm embarrassed the mariners, or, helping them awkwardly, rendered unavailing the services of the skilful. After this, the whole expanse of air and sea was swept by a southwest wind, which, deriving strength from the mountainous regions of Germany, its deep rivers, and boundless tract of clouded atmosphere, and rendered still harsher by the rigor of the neighboring north, tore away the ships, scattered and drove them into the open ocean, or upon islands, dangerous from precipitous rocks or the hidden sand-banks which beset them. Having got a little clear of these (but with great difficulty), the tide turned, and, flowing in the same direction as that in which the wind blew, they were unable to ride at anchor or bale out the water that broke in upon them. Horses, beasts of burden, baggage, even arms, were thrown overboard to lighten the holds of the vessels, which took in water at their sides and from the waves running over them. Around them were either shores inhabited by enemies or a sea so vast and unfathomable as to be supposed to be the limit of the world and unbounded by any land. Part[Pg 21] of the fleet was swallowed up; many ships were driven upon remote islands where, without a trace of civilized humanity, the men perished through famine, or were kept alive by the carcasses of horses that were dashed upon the same shore. The galley of Germanicus alone reached the coast of the Chaucians[25] where, during the whole period of his stay, both day and night, amid the rocks and prominences of the shore, he reproached himself as being the author of such overwhelming destruction, and was hardly restrained by his friends from destroying himself in the sea. At last, with the returning tide and favoring gale, the shattered ships returned—almost all destitute of oars, or with garments spread for sails, and some towed by those which were less disabled. He repaired them hastily, and despatched them to search the islands. By this diligence the greater part were recovered; many were by the Angrivarians (our new subjects) redeemed from their more inland neighbors and restored; and some, driven into Great Britain, were sent back by the petty kings. Each according to the remoteness of the region he had returned from recounted the wonders he had witnessed: "the impetuosity of whirlwinds; strange birds; sea monsters of ambiguous form between man and beast"—things either seen or fancied from the effects of fear.
Intelligence of this wreck animated the Germans with hopes of renewing the war, which Germanicus, perceiving, resolved to check. He commanded Caius Silius, with thirty thousand foot and three thousand horse, to march into the country of the Cattians; he himself, with a greater force, invaded the Marsians, where he learned from Malovendus, their general—lately taken into our subjection—that the eagle of one of Varus' legions was hidden underground in a neighboring grove kept by a slender guard. Instantly two parties were despatched: one to face the enemy and draw him from his position, the other to march around upon the rear and open the ground. Success attended both. Hence Germanicus, advancing toward the interior with greater alacrity, laid waste the country and destroyed the effects of the late disaster. The foe, wherever they engaged, were instantly defeated; nor (as was learned from the prisoners) were they ever more dismayed. "The Romans," they exclaimed,[Pg 22] "are invincible; no calamities can subdue them; they have wrecked their fleet, their arms are lost, our shores are covered with the bodies of their horses and men; and yet they have invaded us with their usual spirit, with the same firmness, and as if their numbers were increased."
The army was thence led back into winter quarters, full of joy to have balanced, by this prosperous expedition, their misfortunes at sea; and by the bounty of Germanicus their happiness was increased; since to each sufferer he paid as much as he declared he had lost; neither was it doubted but that the enemy was tottering and concerting measures for obtaining peace, and that the next summer would terminate the war. Tiberius, by frequent letters, pressed him "to come home to the triumph decreed him." He urged also that he had experienced enough of events and casualties; he had indeed fought great and successful battles, but he must likewise remember his losses and calamities, which (however, owing to wind and waves, and no fault of the general) were yet great and grievous. He himself had been sent nine times into Germany by Augustus, and effected much more by policy than arms. It was thus he had brought the Sygambrians into subjection, thus the Suevians, thus King Maroboduus had been obliged to submit to terms. The Cheruscans, too, and the other hostile nations—now the Roman honor was vindicated—might be left to pursue their own intestine feuds. Germanicus besought one year to accomplish his conquest, but Tiberius assailed his modesty with fresh importunity, by offering him another consulship, the duties of which would require his presence; he added "that if the war were still to be prosecuted, he should leave materials for the fame of his brother, Drusus, who, as there then remained no other enemy, could acquire the title of Imperator, and earn the privilege of presenting the laurel in Germany alone." Germanicus persisted no longer; though he knew that this was all hypocrisy, and that through envy he was torn away from a ripened harvest of glory.


[19] There were four gates to a Roman camp. Livy says so in express terms: "Ad quatuor portas exercitum instruxit, ut, signo dato, ex omnibus portubus eruptionem facerent." The several gates were theprætorian; the gate opposite to it, at the extremity of the camp, called the decuman; and two others, called the right and left principals, because they stood on the right and left sides of the camp, fronting the street called Principia.
[20] In the camp a place was set apart for taking the auspices, on the right of the general's tent.
[21] He assumed this disguise in order to appear like a German soldier.
[22] The Romans divided the night into four watches. Each watch was on duty three hours, and then relieved by the next in turn. The third watch began about the modern twelve at night.
[23] It appears that the battle was fought in July or the beginning of August, adulta jam æstate. If so, the fifth hour nearly agrees with our nine in the morning.
[24] In the time of the republic, the title of Imperator was given by the soldiers in the field of battle to the commander-in-chief. The custom ceased under Augustus, who annexed the title to the imperial dignity, the prince being then generalissimo of all the armies of the empire. The name of Imperator, it is true, was afterward given to the general who gained a victory; but that was not done without the special permission of the prince. The same rule was observed under the following emperors; and accordingly we find that Tiberius was saluted Imperator; but the soldiers did not presume to do that honor to Germanicus.
[25] The mouth of the Visurgis, or the Weser.

View the rest of The Great Events by Famous Historians, Volume 03, by Various - Full Text

No comments:

Post a Comment