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Tacitus: History Book 4 [60]

60. The ties of loyalty on the one hand, and the necessities of famine on the other, kept the besieged wavering between the alternatives of glory and infamy. While they thus hesitated, all usual and even unusual kinds of food failed them, for they had consumed their horses and beasts of burden and all the other animals, which, though unclean and disgusting, necessity compelled them to use. At last they tore up shrubs and roots and the grass that grew between the stones, and thus shewed an example of patience under privations, till at last they shamefully tarnished the lustre of their fame by sending envoys to Civilis to beg for their lives. Their prayers were not heard, till they swore allegiance to the empire of Gaul. Civilis then stipulated for the plunder of the camp, and appointed guards who were to secure the treasure, the camp-followers, and the baggage, and accompany them as they departed, stripped of everything. About five miles from the spot the Germans rose upon them, and attacked them as they marched without thought of danger. The bravest were cut down where they stood; the greater part, as they were scattered in flight. The rest made their escape to the camp, while Civilis certainly complained of the proceeding, and upbraided the Germans with breaking faith by this atrocious act. Whether this was mere hypocrisy, or whether he was unable to restrain their fury, is not positively stated. They plundered and then fired the camp, and all who survived the battle the flames destroyed.

60. Obsessos hinc fides, inde egestas inter decus ac flagitium distrahebant. cunctantibus solita insolitaque alimenta deerant, absumptis iumentis equisque et ceteris animalibus, quae profana foedaque in usum necessitas vertit. virgulta postremo et stirpis et internatas saxis herbas vellentes miseriarum patientiaeque documentum fuere, donec egregiam laudem fine turpi macularent, missis ad Civilem legatis vitam orantes. neque ante preces admissae quam in verba Galliarum iurarent: tum pactus praedam castrorum dat custodes qui pecuniam calones sarcinas retentarent et qui ipsos levis abeuntis prosequerentur. ad quintum ferme lapidem coorti Germani incautum agmen adgrediuntur. pugnacissimus quisque in vestigio, multi palantes occubuere: ceteri retro in castra perfugiunt, querente sane Civile et increpante Germanos tamquam fidem per scelus abrumperent. simulata ea fuerint an retinere saevientis nequiverit, parum adfirmatur. direptis castris faces iniciunt, cunctosque qui proelio superfuerant incendium hausit.

61. Then Civilis fulfilled a vow often made by barbarians; his hair, which he had let grow long and coloured with a red dye from the day of taking up arms against Rome, he now cut short, when the destruction of the legions had been accomplished. It was also said that he set up some of the prisoners as marks for his little son to shoot at with a child's arrows and javelins. He neither took the oath of allegiance to Gaul himself, nor obliged any Batavian to do so, for he relied on the resources of Germany, and felt that, should it be necessary to fight for empire with the Gauls, he should have on his side a great name and superior strength. Munius Lupercus, legate of one of the legions, was sent along with other gifts to Veleda, a maiden of the tribe of the Bructeri, who possessed extensive dominion; for by ancient usage the Germans attributed to many of their women prophetic powers and, as the superstition grew in strength, even actual divinity. The authority of Veleda was then at its height, because she had foretold the success of the Germans and the destruction of the legions. Lupercus, however, was murdered on the road. A few of the centurions and tribunes, who were natives of Gaul, were reserved as hostages for the maintenance of the alliance. The winter encampments of the auxiliary infantry and cavalry and of the legions, with the sole exception of those at Mogontiacum and Vindonissa, were pulled down and burnt.

61. Civilis barbaro voto post coepta adversus Romanos arma propexum rutilatumque crinem patrata demum caede legionum deposuit; et ferebatur parvulo filio quosdam captivorum sagittis iaculisque puerilibus figendos obtulisse. ceterum neque se neque quemquam Batavum in verba Galliarum adegit, fisus Germanorum opibus et, si certandum adversus Gallos de possessione rerum foret, inclutus fama et potior. Munius Lupercus legatus legionis inter dona missus Veledae. ea virgo nationis Bructerae late imperitabat, vetere apud Germanos more, quo plerasque feminarum fatidicas et augescente superstitione arbitrantur deas. tuncque Veledae auctoritas adolevit; nam prosperas Germanis res et excidium legionum praedixerat. sed Lupercus in itinere interfectus. pauci centurionum tribunorumque in Gallia geniti reservantur pignus societati. cohortium alarum legionum hiberna subversa cremataque, iis tantum relictis quae Mogontiaci ac Vindonissae sita sunt.

62. The 16th legion, with the auxiliary troops that capitulated at the same time, received orders to march from Novesium to the Colony of the Treveri, a day having been fixed by which they were to quit the camp. The whole of this interval they spent in many anxious thoughts. The cowards trembled to think of those who had been massacred at the Old Camp; the better men blushed with shame at the infamy of their position. "What a march is this before us!" they cried, "Who will lead us on our way? Our all is at the disposal of those whom we have made our masters for life or death." Others, without the least sense of their disgrace, stowed away about their persons their money and what else they prized most highly, while some got their arms in readiness, and girded on their weapons as if for battle. While they were thus occupied, the time for their departure arrived, and proved even more dismal than their anticipation. For in their intrenchments their woeful appearance had not been so noticeable; the open plain and the light of day revealed their disgrace. The images of the Emperors were torn down; the standards were borne along without their usual honours, while the banners of the Gauls glittered on every side. The train moved on in silence like a long funeral procession. Their leader was Claudius Sanctus; one of his eyes had been destroyed; he was repulsive in countenance and even more feeble in intellect. The guilt of the troops seemed to be doubled, when the other legion, deserting the camp at Bonna, joined their ranks. When the report of the capture of the legions became generally known, all who but a short time before trembled at the name of Rome rushed forth from the fields and houses, and spread themselves everywhere to enjoy with extravagant delight the strange spectacle. The Picentine Horse could not endure the triumph of the insulting rabble, and, disregarding the promises and threats of Sanctus, rode off to Mogontiacum. Chancing to fall in with Longinus, the murderer of Vocula, they overwhelmed him with a shower of darts, and thus made a beginning towards a future expiation of their guilt. The legions did not change the direction of their march, and encamped under the walls of the colony of the Treveri.

62. Legio sexta decima cum auxiliis simul deditis a Novaesio in coloniam Trevirorum transgredi iubetur, praefinita die intra quam castris excederet. medium omne tempus per varias curas egere, ignavissimus quisque caesorum apud Vetera exemplo paventes, melior pars rubore et infamia: quale illud iter? quis dux viae? et omnia in arbitrio eorum quos vitae necisque dominos fecissent. alii nulla dedecoris cura pecuniam aut carissima sibimet ipsi circumdare, quidam expedire arma telisque tamquam in aciem accingi. haec meditantibus advenit proficiscendi hora expectatione tristior. quippe intra vallum deformitas haud perinde notabilis: detexit ignominiam campus et dies. revulsae imperatorum imagines, inhonora signa, fulgentibus hinc inde Gallorum vexillis; silens agmen et velut longae exequiae; dux Claudius Sanctus effosso oculo dirus ore, ingenio debilior. duplicatur flagitium, postquam desertis Bonnensibus castris altera se legio miscuerat. et vulgata captarum legionum fama cuncti qui paulo ante Romanorum nomen horrebant, procurrentes ex agris tectisque et undique effusi insolito spectaculo nimium fruebantur. non tulit ala Picentina gaudium insultantis vulgi, spretisque Sancti promissis aut minis Mogontiacum abeunt; ac forte obvio interfectore Voculae Longino, coniectis in eum telis initium exolvendae in posterum culpae fecere: legiones nihil mutato itinere ante moenia Trevirorum considunt.

63. Elated with their success, Civilis and Classicus doubted whether they should not give up the Colonia Agrippinensis to be plundered by their troops. Their natural ferocity and lust for spoil prompted them to destroy the city; but the necessities of war, and the advantage of a character for clemency to men founding a new empire, forbade them to do so. Civilis was also influenced by recollections of kindness received; for his son, who at the beginning of the war had been arrested in the Colony, had been kept in honourable custody. But the tribes beyond the Rhine disliked the place for its wealth and increasing power, and held that the only possible way of putting an end to war would be, either to make it an open city for all Germans, or to destroy it and so disperse the Ubii.

63. Civilis et Classicus rebus secundis sublati, an coloniam Agrippinensem diripiendam exercitibus suis permitterent dubitavere. saevitia ingenii et cupidine praedae ad excidium civitatis trahebantur: obstabat ratio belli et novum imperium inchoantibus utilis clementiae fama; Civilem etiam beneficii memoria flexit, quod filium eius primo rerum motu in colonia Agrippinensi deprehensum honorata custodia habuerant. sed Transrhenanis gentibus invisa civitas opulentia auctuque; neque alium finem belli rebantur quam si promisca ea sedes omnibus Germanis foret aut disiecta Vbios quoque dispersisset.

64. Upon this the Tencteri, a tribe separated by the Rhine from the Colony, sent envoys with orders to make known their instructions to the Senate of the Agrippinenses. These orders the boldest spirit among the ambassadors thus expounded: "For your return into the unity of the German nation and name we give thanks to the Gods whom we worship in common and to Mars, the chief of our divinities, and we congratulate you that at length you will live as free men among the free. Up to this day have the Romans closed river and land and, in a way, the very air, that they may bar our converse and prevent our meetings, or, what is a still worse insult to men born to arms, may force us to assemble unarmed and all but stripped, watched by sentinels, and taxed for the privilege. But that our friendship and union may be established for ever, we require of you to strip your city of its walls, which are the bulwarks of slavery. Even savage animals, if you keep them in confinement, forget their natural courage. We require of you to massacre all Romans within your territory; liberty and a dominant race cannot well exist together. Let the property of the slain come into a common stock, so that no one may be able to secrete anything, or to detach his own interest from ours. Let it be lawful for us and for you to inhabit both banks of the Rhine, as it was of old for our ancestors. As nature has given light and air to all men, so has she thrown open every land to the brave. Resume the manners and customs of your country, renouncing the pleasures, through which, rather than through their arms, the Romans secure their power against subject nations. A pure and untainted race, forgetting your past bondage, you will be the equals of all, or will even rule over others."

64. Igitur Tencteri, Rheno discreta gens, missis legatis mandata apud concilium Agrippinensium edi iubent, quae ferocissimus e legatis in hunc modum protulit: 'redisse vos in corpus nomenque Germaniae communibus deis et praecipuo deorum Marti grates agimus, vobisque gratulamur quod tandem liberi inter liberos eritis; nam ad hunc diem flumina ac terram et caelum quodam modo ipsum clauserant Romani ut conloquia congressusque nostros arcerent, vel, quod contumeliosius est viris ad arma natis, inermes ac prope nudi sub custode et pretio coiremus. sed ut amicitia societasque nostra in aeternum rata sint, postulamus a vobis muros coloniae, munimenta servitii, detrahatis (etiam fera animalia, si clausa teneas, virtutis obliviscuntur), Romanos omnis in finibus vestris trucidetis (haud facile libertas et domini miscentur): bona interfectorum in medium cedant, ne quis occulere quicquam aut segregare causam suam possit. liceat nobis vobisque utramque ripam colere, ut olim maioribus nostris: quo modo lucem diemque omnibus hominibus, ita omnis terras fortibus viris natura aperuit. instituta cultumque patrium resumite, abruptis voluptatibus, quibus Romani plus adversus subiectos quam armis valent. sincerus et integer et servitutis oblitus populus aut ex aequo agetis aut aliis imperitabitis.'

65. The inhabitants of the Colony took time for deliberation, and, as dread of the future would not allow them to accept the offered terms, while their actual condition forbade an open and contemptuous rejection, they replied to the following effect: "The very first chance of freedom that presented itself we seized with more eagerness than caution, that we might unite ourselves with you and the other Germans, our kinsmen by blood. With respect to our fortifications, as at this very moment the Roman armies are assembling, it is safer for us to strengthen than to destroy them. All strangers from Italy or the provinces, that may have been in our territory, have either perished in the war, or have fled to their own homes. As for those who in former days settled here, and have been united to us by marriage, and as for their offspring, this is their native land. We cannot think you so unjust as to wish that we should slay our parents, our brothers, and our children. All duties and restrictions on trade we repeal. Let there be a free passage across the river, but let it be during the day-time and for persons unarmed, till the new and recent privileges assume by usage the stability of time. As arbiters between us we will have Civilis and Veleda; under their sanction the treaty shall be ratified." The Tencteri were thus appeased, and ambassadors were sent with presents to Civilis and Veleda, who settled everything to the satisfaction of the inhabitants of the Colony. They were not, however, allowed to approach or address Veleda herself. In order to inspire them with more respect they were prevented from seeing her. She dwelt in a lofty tower, and one of her relatives, chosen for the purpose, conveyed, like the messenger of a divinity, the questions and answers.

65. Agrippinenses sumpto consultandi spatio, quando neque subire condiciones metus futuri neque palam aspernari condicio praesens sinebat, in hunc modum respondent: 'quae prima libertatis facultas data est, avidius quam cautius sumpsimus, ut vobis ceterisque Germanis, consanguineis nostris, iungeremur. muros civitatis, congregantibus se cum maxime Romanorum exercitibus, augere nobis quam diruere tutius est. si qui ex Italia aut provinciis alienigenae in finibus nostris fuerant, eos bellum absumpsit vel in suas quisque sedis refugerunt. deductis olim et nobiscum per conubium sociatis quique mox provenerunt haec patria est; nec vos adeo iniquos existimamus ut interfici a nobis parentes fratres liberos nostros velitis. vectigal et onera commerciorum resolvimus: sint transitus incustoditi sed diurni et inermes, donec nova et recentia iura vetustate in consuetudinem vertuntur. arbitrum habebimus Civilem et Veledam, apud quos pacta sancientur.' sic lenitis Tencteris legati ad Civilem ac Veledam missi cum donis cuncta ex voluntate Agrippinensium perpetravere; sed coram adire adloquique Veledam negatum: arcebantur aspectu quo venerationis plus inesset. ipsa edita in turre; delectus e propinquis consulta responsaque ut internuntius numinis portabat.

66. Thus strengthened by his alliance with the Colonia Agrippinensis, Civilis resolved to attach to himself the neighbouring States, or to make war on them if they offered any opposition. He occupied the territory of the Sunici, and formed the youth of the country into regular cohorts. To hinder his further advance, Claudius Labeo encountered him with a hastily assembled force of Betasii, Tungri, and Nervii, relying on the strength of his position, as he had occupied a bridge over the river Mosa. They fought in a narrow defile without any decided result, till the Germans swam across and attacked Labeo's rear. At the same moment, Civilis, acting either on some bold impulse or by a preconcerted plan, rushed into the Tungrian column, exclaiming in a loud voice, "We have not taken up arms in order that the Batavi and Treveri may rule over the nations. Far from us be such arrogance! Accept our alliance. I am ready to join your ranks, whether you would prefer me to be your general or your comrade." The multitude was moved by the appeal, and were beginning to sheathe their swords, when Campanus and Juvenalis, two of the Tungrian chieftains, surrendered the whole tribe to Civilis. Labeo made his escape before he could be intercepted. The Betasii and Nervii, also capitulating, were incorporated by Civilis into his army. He now commanded vast resources, as the States were either completely cowed, or else were naturally inclined in his favour.

66. Civilis societate Agrippinensium auctus proximas civitates adfectare aut adversantibus bellum inferre statuit. occupatisque Sunucis et iuventute eorum per cohortis composita, quo minus ultra pergeret, Claudius Labeo Baetasiorum Tungrorumque et Nerviorum tumultuaria manu restitit, fretus loco, quia pontem Mosae fluminis anteceperat. pugnabaturque in angustiis ambigue donec Germani transnatantes terga Labeonis invasere; simul Civilis, ausus an ex composito, intulit se agmini Tungrorum, et clara voce 'non ideo' inquit 'bellum sumpsimus, ut Batavi et Treviri gentibus imperent: procul haec a nobis adrogantia. accipite societatem: transgredior ad vos, seu me ducem seu militem mavultis.' movebatur vulgus condebantque gladios, cum Campanus ac Iuvenalis e primoribus Tungrorum universam ei gentem dedidere; Labeo antequam circumveniretur profugit. Civilis Baetasios quoque ac Nervios in fidem acceptos copiis suis adiunxit, ingens rerum, perculsis civitatum animis vel sponte inclinantibus.

67. Meanwhile Julius Sabinus, after having thrown down the pillars that recorded the treaty with Rome, bade his followers salute him as Emperor, and hastened at the head of a large and undisciplined crowd of his countrymen to attack the Sequani, a neighbouring people, still faithful to Rome. The Sequani did not decline the contest. Fortune favoured the better cause, and the Lingones were defeated. Sabinus fled from the battle with a cowardice equal to the rashness with which he had precipitated it, and, in order to spread a report of his death, he set fire to a country-house where he had taken refuge. It was believed that he there perished by a death of his own seeking. The various shifts by which he contrived to conceal himself and to prolong his life for nine years, the firm fidelity of his friends, and the noble example of his wife Epponina, I shall relate in their proper place. By this victory of the Sequani the tide of war was stayed. The States began by degrees to recover their senses, and to reflect on the claims of justice and of treaties. The Remi were foremost in this movement, announcing throughout Gaul that deputies were to be sent to consult in common assembly whether they should make freedom or peace their object.

67. Interea Iulius Sabinus proiectis foederis Romani monumentis Caesarem se salutari iubet magnamque et inconditam popularium turbam in Sequanos rapit, conterminam civitatem et nobis fidam; nec Sequani detractavere certamen. fortuna melioribus adfuit: fusi Lingones. Sabinus festinatum temere proelium pari formidine deseruit; utque famam exitii sui faceret, villam, in quam perfugerat, cremavit, illic voluntaria morte interisse creditus. sed quibus artibus latebrisque vitam per novem mox annos traduxerit, simul amicorum eius constantiam et insigne Epponinae uxoris exemplum suo loco reddemus. Sequanorum prospera acie belli impetus stetit. resipiscere paulatim civitates fasque et foedera respicere, principibus Remis, qui per Gallias edixere ut missis legatis in commune consultarent, libertas an pax placeret.

68. At Rome report exaggerated all these disasters, and disturbed Mucianus with the fear that the generals, though distinguished men (for he had already appointed Gallus Annius and Petilius Cerialis to the command), would be unequal to the weight of so vast a war. Yet the capital could not be left without a ruler, and men feared the ungoverned passions of Domitian, while Primus Antonius and Varus Arrius were also, as I have said, objects of suspicion. Varus, who had been made commander of the Praetorian Guard, had still at his disposal much military strength. Mucianus ejected him from his office, and, not to leave him without consolation, made him superintendent of the sale of corn. To pacify the feelings of Domitian, which were not unfavourable to Varus, he appointed Arretinus Clemens, who was closely connected with the house of Vespasian, and who was also a great favourite with Domitian, to the command of the Praetorian Guard, alleging that his father, in the reign of Caligula, had admirably discharged the duties of that office. The old name he said, would please the soldiers, and Clemens himself, though on the roll of Senators, would be equal to both duties. He selected the most eminent men in the State to accompany him, while others were appointed through interest. At the same time Domitian and Mucianus prepared to set out, but in a very different mood; Domitian in all the hope and impatience of youth, Mucianus ever contriving delays to check his ardent companion, who, he feared, were he to intrude himself upon the army, might be led by the recklessness of youth or by bad advisers to compromise at once the prospects of war and of peace. Two of the victorious legions, the 6th and 8th, the 21st, which belonged to the Vitellianist army, the 2nd, which consisted of new levies, were marched into Gaul, some over the Penine and Cottian, some over the Graian Alps. The 14th legion was summoned from Britain, and the 6th and 10th from Spain. Thus rumours of an advancing army, as well as their own temper, inclined the States of Gaul which assembled in the country of the Remi to more peaceful counsels. Envoys from the Treveri were awaiting them there, and among them Tullius Valentinus, the most vehement promoter of the war, who in a set speech poured forth all the charges usually made against great empires, and levelled against the Roman people many insulting and exasperating expressions. The man was a turbulent fomenter of sedition, and pleased many by his frantic eloquence.

68. At Romae cuncta in deterius audita Mucianum angebant, ne quamquam egregii duces (iam enim Gallum Annium et Petilium Cerialem delegerat) summam belli parum tolerarent. nec relinquenda urbs sine rectore; et Domitiani indomitae libidines timebantur, suspectis, uti diximus, Primo Antonio Varoque Arrio. Varus praetorianis praepositus vim atque arma retinebat: eum Mucianus pulsum loco, ne sine solacio ageret, annonae praefecit. utque Domitiani animum Varo haud alienum deleniret, Arrecinum Clementem, domui Vespasiani per adfinitatem innexum et gratissimum Domitiano, praetorianis praeposuit, patrem eius sub C. Caesare egregie functum ea cura dictitans, laetum militibus idem nomen, atque ipsum, quamquam senatorii ordinis, ad utraque munia sufficere. adsumuntur e civitate clarissimus quisque et alii per ambitionem. simul Domitianus Mucianusque accingebantur, dispari animo, ille spe ac iuventa properus, hic moras nectens quis flagrantem retineret, ne ferocia aetatis et pravis impulsoribus, si exercitum invasisset, paci belloque male consuleret. legiones victrices, octava, undecima, decima tertia Vitellianarum unaetvicensima, e recens conscriptis secunda Poeninis Cottianisque Alpibus, pars monte Graio traducuntur; quarta decima legio e Britannia, sexta ac prima ex Hispania accitae. Igitur venientis exercitus fama et suopte ingenio ad mitiora inclinantes Galliarum civitates in Remos convenere. Trevirorum legatio illic opperiebatur, acerrimo instinctore belli Iulio Valentino. is meditata oratione cuncta magnis imperiis obiectari solita contumeliasque et invidiam in populum Romanum effudit, turbidus miscendis seditionibus et plerisque gratus vaecordi facundia.

69. On the other hand Julius Auspex, one of the leading chieftains among the Remi, dwelt on the power of Rome and the advantages of peace. Pointing out that war might be commenced indeed by cowards, but must be carried on at the peril of the braver spirits, and that the Roman legions were close at hand, he restrained the most prudent by considerations of respect and loyalty, and held back the younger by representations of danger and appeals to fear. The result was, that, while they extolled the spirit of Valentinus, they followed the counsels of Auspex. It is certain that the Treveri and Lingones were injured in the eyes of the Gallic nations by their having sided with Verginius in the movement of Vindex. Many were deterred by the mutual jealousy of the provinces. "Where," they asked, "could a head be found for the war? Where could they look for civil authority, and the sanction of religion? If all went well with them, what city could they select as the seat of empire?" The victory was yet to be gained; dissension had already begun. One State angrily boasted of its alliances, another of its wealth and military strength, or of the antiquity of its origin. Disgusted with the prospect of the future, they acquiesced in their present condition. Letters were written to the Treveri in the name of the States of Gaul, requiring them to abstain from hostilities, and reminding them that pardon might yet be obtained, and that friends were ready to intercede for them, should they repent. Valentinus still opposed, and succeeded in closing the ears of his countrymen to this advice, though he was not so diligent in preparing for war as he was assiduous in haranguing.

69. At Iulius Auspex e primoribus Remorum, vim Romanam pacisque bona dissertans et sumi bellum etiam ab ignavis, strenuissimi cuiusque periculo geri, iamque super caput legiones, sapientissimum quemque reverentia fideque, iuniores periculo ac metu continuit: et Valentini animum laudabant, consilium Auspicis sequebantur. constat obstitisse Treviris Lingonibusque apud Gallias, quod Vindicis motu cum Verginio steterant. deterruit plerosque provinciarum aemulatio: quod bello caput? unde ius auspiciumque peteretur? quam, si cuncta provenissent, sedem imperio legerent? nondum victoria, iam discordia erat, aliis foedera, quibusdam opes virisque aut vetustatem originis per iurgia iactantibus: taedio futurorum praesentia placuere. scribuntur ad Treviros epistulae nomine Galliarum ut abstinerent armis, impetrabili venia et paratis deprecatoribus, si paeniteret: restitit idem Valentinus obstruxitque civitatis suae auris, haud perinde instruendo bello intentus quam frequens contionibus.

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