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Tacitus: History Book 5 [10]

10. Yet the endurance of the Jews lasted till Gessius Florus was procurator. In his time the war broke out. Cestius Gallus, legate of Syria, who attempted to crush it, had to fight several battles, generally with ill-success. Cestius dying, either in the course of nature, or from vexation, Vespasian was sent by Nero, and by help of his good fortune, his high reputation, and his excellent subordinates, succeeded within the space of two summers in occupying with his victorious army the whole of the level country and all the cities, except Jerusalem. The following year had been wholly taken up with civil strife, and had passed, as far as the Jews were concerned, in inaction. Peace having been established in Italy, foreign affairs were once more remembered. Our indignation was heightened by the circumstance that the Jews alone had not submitted. At the same time it was held to be more expedient, in reference to the possible results and contingencies of the new reign, that Titus should remain with the army.

10. Duravit tamen patientia Iudaeis usque ad Gessium Florum procuratorem: sub eo bellum ortum. Et comprimere coeptantem Cestium Gallum Syriae legatum varia proelia ac saepius adversa excepere. Qui ubi fato aut taedio occidit, missu Neronis Vespasianus fortuna famaque et egregiis ministris intra duas aestates cuncta camporum omnisque praeter Hierosolyma urbis victore exercitu tenebat. Proximus annus civili bello intentus quantum ad Iudaeos per otium transiit. Pace per Italiam parta et externae curae rediere: augebat iras quod soli Iudaei non cessissent; simul manere apud exercitus Titum ad omnis principatus novi eventus casusve utile videbatur.

11. The Jews formed their line close under their walls, whence, if successful, they might venture to advance, and where, if repulsed, they had a refuge at hand. The cavalry with some light infantry was sent to attack them, and fought without any decisive result. Shortly afterwards the enemy retreated. During the following days they fought a series of engagements in front of the gates, till they were driven within the walls by continual defeats. The Romans then began to prepare for an assault. It seemed beneath them to await the result of famine. The army demanded the more perilous alternative, some prompted by courage, many by sheer ferocity and greed of gain. Titus himself had Rome with all its wealth and pleasures before his eyes. Jerusalem must fall at once, or it would delay his enjoyment of them. But the commanding situation of the city had been strengthened by enormous works which would have been a thorough defence even for level ground. Two hills of great height were fenced in by walls which had been skilfully obliqued or bent inwards, in such a manner that the flank of an assailant was exposed to missiles. The rock terminated in a precipice; the towers were raised to a height of sixty feet, where the hill lent its aid to the fortifications, where the ground fell, to a height of one hundred and twenty. They had a marvellous appearance, and to a distant spectator seemed to be of uniform elevation. Within were other walls surrounding the palace, and, rising to a conspicuous height, the tower Antonia, so called by Herod, in honour of Marcus Antonius.

11. Igitur castris, uti diximus, ante moenia Hierosolymorum positis instructas legiones ostentavit: Iudaei sub ipsos muros struxere aciem, rebus secundis longius ausuri et, si pellerentur, parato perfugio. Missus in eos eques cum expeditis cohortibus ambigue certavit; mox cessere hostes et sequentibus diebus crebra pro portis proelia serebant, donec adsiduis damnis intra moenia pellerentur. Romani ad obpugnandum versi; neque enim dignum videbatur famem hostium opperiri, poscebantque pericula, pars virtute, multi ferocia et cupidine praemiorum. Ipsi Tito Roma et opes voluptatesque ante oculos; ac ni statim Hierosolyma conciderent, morari videbantur. Sed urbem arduam situ opera molesque firmaverant, quis vel plana satis munirentur. Nam duos collis in immensum editos claudebant muri per artem obliqui aut introrsus sinuati, ut latera obpugnantium ad ictus patescerent. Extrema rupis abrupta, et turres, ubi mons iuvisset, in sexagenos pedes, inter devexa in centenos vicenosque attollebantur, mira specie ac procul intuentibus pares. Alia intus moenia regiae circumiecta, conspicuoque fastigio turris Antonia, in honorem M. Antonii ab Herode appellata.

12. The temple resembled a citadel, and had its own walls, which were more laboriously constructed than the others. Even the colonnades with which it was surrounded formed an admirable outwork. It contained an inexhaustible spring; there were subterranean excavations in the hill, and tanks and cisterns for holding rain water. The founders of the state had foreseen that frequent wars would result from the singularity of its customs, and so had made every provision against the most protracted siege. After the capture of their city by Pompey, experience and apprehension taught them much. Availing themselves of the sordid policy of the Claudian era to purchase the right of fortification, they raised in time of peace such walls as were suited for war. Their numbers were increased by a vast rabble collected from the overthrow of the other cities. All the most obstinate rebels had escaped into the place, and perpetual seditions were the consequence. There were three generals, and as many armies. Simon held the outer and larger circuit of walls. John, also called Bargioras, occupied the middle city. Eleazar had fortified the temple. John and Simon were strong in numbers and equipment, Eleazar in position. There were continual skirmishes, surprises, and incendiary fires, and a vast quantity of corn was burnt. Before long John sent some emissaries, who, under pretence of sacrificing, slaughtered Eleazar and his partisans, and gained possession of the temple. The city was thus divided between two factions, till, as the Romans approached, war with the foreigner brought about a reconciliation.

12. Templum in modum arcis propriique muri, labore et opere ante alios; ipsae porticus, quis templum ambibatur, egregium propugnaculum. Fons perennis aquae, cavati sub terra montes et piscinae cisternaeque servandis imbribus. Providerant conditores ex diversitate morum crebra bella: inde cuncta quamvis adversus longum obsidium; et a Pompeio expugnatis metus atque usus pleraque monstravere. Atque per avaritiam Claudianorum temporum empto iure muniendi struxere muros in pace tamquam ad bellum, magna conluvie et ceterarum urbium clade aucti; nam pervicacissimus quisque illuc perfugerat eoque seditiosius agebant. Tres duces, totidem exercitus: extrema et latissima moenium Simo, mediam urbem Ioannes [quem et Bargioram vocabant], templum Eleazarus firmaverat. Multitudine et armis Ioannes ac Simo, Eleazarus loco pollebat: sed proelia dolus incendia inter ipsos, et magna vis frumenti ambusta. Mox Ioannes, missis per speciem sacrificandi qui Eleazarum manumque eius obtruncarent, templo potitur. Ita in duas factiones civitas discessit, donec propinquantibus Romanis bellum externum concordiam pareret.

13. Prodigies had occurred, which this nation, prone to superstition, but hating all religious rites, did not deem it lawful to expiate by offering and sacrifice. There had been seen hosts joining battle in the skies, the fiery gleam of arms, the temple illuminated by a sudden radiance from the clouds. The doors of the inner shrine were suddenly thrown open, and a voice of more than mortal tone was heard to cry that the Gods were departing. At the same instant there was a mighty stir as of departure. Some few put a fearful meaning on these events, but in most there was a firm persuasion, that in the ancient records of their priests was contained a prediction of how at this very time the East was to grow powerful, and rulers, coming from Judaea, were to acquire universal empire. These mysterious prophecies had pointed to Vespasian and Titus, but the common people, with the usual blindness of ambition, had interpreted these mighty destinies of themselves, and could not be brought even by disasters to believe the truth. I have heard that the total number of the besieged, of every age and both sexes, amounted to six hundred thousand. All who were able bore arms, and a number, more than proportionate to the population, had the courage to do so. Men and women showed equal resolution, and life seemed more terrible than death, if they were to be forced to leave their country. Such was this city and nation; and Titus Caesar, seeing that the position forbad an assault or any of the more rapid operations of war, determined to proceed by earthworks and covered approaches. The legions had their respective duties assigned to them, and there was a cessation from fighting, till all the inventions, used in ancient warfare, or devised by modern ingenuity for the reduction of cities, were constructed.

13. Evenerant prodigia, quae neque hostiis neque votis piare fas habet gens superstitioni obnoxia, religionibus adversa. Visae per caelum concurrere acies, rutilantia arma et subito nubium igne conlucere templum. Apertae repente delubri fores et audita maior humana vox excedere deos; simul ingens motus excedentium. Quae pauci in metum trahebant: pluribus persuasio inerat antiquis sacerdotum litteris contineri eo ipso tempore fore ut valesceret Oriens profectique Iudaea rerum potirentur. Quae ambages Vespasianum ac Titum praedixerat, sed vulgus more humanae cupidinis sibi tantam fatorum magnitudinem interpretati ne adversis quidem ad vera mutabantur. Multitudinem obsessorum omnis aetatis, virile ac muliebre secus, sexcenta milia fuisse accepimus: arma cunctis, qui ferre possent, et plures quam pro numero audebant. Obstinatio viris feminisque par; ac si transferre sedis cogerentur, maior vitae metus quam mortis. Hanc adversus urbem gentemque Caesar Titus, quando impetus et subita belli locus abnueret, aggeribus vineisque certare statuit: dividuntur legionibus munia et quies proeliorum fuit, donec cuncta expugnandis urbibus reperta apud veteres aut novis ingeniis struerentur.

14. Meanwhile Civilis, having recruited his army from Germany after his defeat among the Treveri, took up his position at the Old Camp, where his situation would protect him, and where the courage of his barbarian troops would be raised by the recollection of successes gained on the spot. He was followed to this place by Cerialis, whose forces had now been doubled by the arrival of the 2nd, 6th, and 14th legions. The auxiliary infantry and cavalry, summoned long before, had hastened to join him after his victory. Neither of the generals loved delay. But a wide extent of plain naturally saturated with water kept them apart. Civilis had also thrown a dam obliquely across the Rhine, so that the stream, diverted by the obstacle, might overflow the adjacent country. Such was the character of the district, full of hidden perils from the varying depth of the fords, and unfavourable to our troops. The Roman soldier is heavily armed and afraid to swim, while the German, who is accustomed to rivers, is favoured by the lightness of his equipment and the height of his stature.

14. At Civilis post malam in Treviris pugnam reparato per Germaniam exercitu apud Vetera castra consedit, tutus loco, et ut memoria prosperarum illic rerum augescerent barbarorum animi. Secutus est eodem Cerialis, duplicatis copiis adventu secundae et tertiae decimae et quartae decimae legionum; cohortesque et alae iam pridem accitae post victoriam properaverant. Neuter ducum cunctator, sed arcebat latitudo camporum suopte ingenio umentium; addiderat Civilis obliquam in Rhenum molem, cuius obiectu revolutus amnis adiacentibus superfunderetur. Ea loci forma, incertis vadis subdola et nobis adversa: quippe miles Romanus armis gravis et nandi pavidus, Germanos fluminibus suetos levitas armorum et proceritas corporum attollit.

15. The Batavi provoking a conflict, the struggle was at once begun by all the boldest spirits among our troops, but a panic arose, when they saw arms and horses swallowed up in the vast depths of the marshes. The Germans leapt lightly through the well-known shallows, and frequently, quitting the front, hung on the rear and flanks of our army. It was neither the close nor the distant fighting of a land-battle; it was more like a naval contest. Struggling among the waters, or exerting every limb where they found any firm footing, the wounded and the unhurt, those who could swim and those who could not, were involved in one common destruction. The loss however was less than might have been expected from the confusion, for the Germans, not venturing to leave the morass, returned to their camp. The result of this battle roused both generals, though from different motives, to hasten on the final struggle. Civilis was anxious to follow up his success; Cerialis to wipe out his disgrace. The Germans were flushed with success; the Romans were thoroughly roused by shame. The barbarians spent the night in singing and shouting; our men in rage and threats of vengeance.

15. Igitur lacessentibus Batavis ferocissimo cuique nostrorum coeptum certamen, deinde orta trepidatio, cum praealtis paludibus arma equi haurirentur. Germani notis vadis persultabant, omissa plerumque fronte latera ac terga circumvenientes. Neque ut in pedestri acie comminus certabatur, sed tamquam navali pugna vagi inter undas aut, si quid stabile occurrebat, totis illic corporibus nitentes, vulnerati cum integris, periti nandi cum ignaris in mutuam perniciem implicabantur. Minor tamen quam pro tumultu caedes, quia non ausi egredi paludem Germani in castra rediere. Eius proelii eventus utrumque ducem diversis animi motibus ad maturandum summae rei discrimen erexit. Civilis instare fortunae, Cerialis abolere ignominiam: Germani prosperis feroces, Romanos pudor excitaverat. Nox apud barbaros cantu aut clamore, nostris per iram et minas acta.

16. Next morning Cerialis formed his front with the cavalry and auxiliary infantry; in the second line were posted the legions, the general reserving a picked force for unforeseen contingencies. Civilis confronted him with his troops ranged, not in line, but in columns. On the right were the Batavi and the Gugerni; the left, which was nearer the river, was occupied by the Transrhenane tribes. The exhortations of the generals were not addressed as formal harangues to the assembled armies, but to the divisions separately, as they rode along the line. Cerialis spoke of the old glory of the Roman name, of former and of recent victories; he told them that in destroying for ever their treacherous, cowardly, and beaten foe, they had to execute a punishment, rather than to fight a battle. They had lately contended with a superior force, and yet the Germans, the strength of the hostile army, had been routed; a few were left, who carried terror in their hearts and scars upon their backs. He addressed to the several legions appropriate appeals. The 14th were styled the "Conquerors of Britain"; the powerful influence of the 6th had made Galba Emperor; the men of the 2nd were in that battle first to consecrate their new standards and new eagle. Then riding up to the army of Germany, he stretched forth his hand, and implored them to recover their river bank and their camp by the slaughter of the foe. A joyful shout arose from the whole army, some of whom after long peace lusted for battle, while others, weary of war, desired peace; all were looking for rewards and for future repose.

16. Postera luce Cerialis equite et auxiliariis cohortibus frontem explet, in secunda acie legiones locatae, dux sibi delectos retinuerat ad improvisa. Civilis haud porrecto agmine, sed cuneis adstitit: Batavi Cugernique in dextro, laeva ac propiora flumini Transrhenani tenuere. Exhortatio ducum non more contionis apud universos, sed ut quosque suorum advehebantur. Cerialis veterem Romani nominis gloriam, antiquas recentisque victorias; ut perfidum ignavum victum hostem in aeternum exciderent, ultione magis quam proelio opus esse. Pauciores nuper cum pluribus certasse, ac tamen fusos Germanos, quod roboris fuerit: superesse qui fugam animis, qui vulnera tergo ferant. Proprios inde stimulos legionibus admovebat, domitores Britanniae quartadecimanos appellans; principem Galbam sextae legionis auctoritate factum; illa primum acie secundanos nova signa novamque aquilam dicaturos. Hinc praevectus ad Germanicum exercitum manus tendebat, ut suam ripam, sua castra sanguine hostium reciperarent. Alacrior omnium clamor, quis vel ex longa pace proelii cupido vel fessis bello pacis amor, praemiaque et quies in posterum sperabatur.

17. Nor did Civilis marshal his army in silence. He called the field of battle to bear witness to their valour. He told the Germans and Batavians that they were standing on the monuments of their glory, that they were treading under foot the ashes and bones of legions. "Wherever," he said, "the Roman turns his eyes, captivity, disaster, and everything that is terrible, confront him. Do not be alarmed by the adverse result of the battle among the Treveri. There, their own success proved hurtful to the Germans, for, throwing away their arms, they hampered their hands with plunder. Since then everything has been favourable to us, and against the foe. All precautions, which the skill of a general should take, have been taken. Here are these flooded plains which we know so well, here the marshes so fatal to the enemy. The Rhine and the Gods of Germany are in your sight. Under their auspices give battle, remembering your wives, your parents, and your father-land. This day will either be the most glorious among the deeds of the past, or will be infamous in the eyes of posterity." These words were hailed, according to their custom, with the clash of arms and with wild antics, and then the battle was commenced by a discharge of stones, leaden balls, and other missiles, our soldiers not entering the morass, while the Germans sought to provoke, and so draw them on.

17. Nec Civilis silentem struxit aciem, locum pugnae testem virtutis ciens: stare Germanos Batavosque super vestigia gloriae, cineres ossaque legionum calcantis. Quocumque oculos Romanus intenderet, captivitatem clademque et dira omnia obversari. Ne terrerentur vario Trevirici proelii eventu: suam illic victoriam Germanis obstitisse, dum omissis telis praeda manus impediunt: sed cuncta mox prospera et hosti contraria evenisse. Quae provideri astu ducis oportuerit, providisse, campos madentis et ipsis gnaros, paludes hostibus noxias. Rhenum et Germaniae deos in aspectu: quorum numine capesserent pugnam, coniugum parentum patriae memores: illum diem aut gloriosissimum inter maiores aut ignominiosum apud posteros fore. Ubi sono armorum tripudiisque--ita illis mos--adprobata sunt dicta, saxis glandibusque et ceteris missilibus proelium incipitur, neque nostro milite paludem ingrediente et Germanis, ut elicerent, lacessentibus.

18. When their store of missiles was spent, and the battle grew hotter, a fiercer onslaught was made by the enemy. Their tall stature and very long spears enabled them, without closing, to wound our men, who were wavering and unsteady. At the same time a column of the Bructeri swam across from the dam, which I have described as carried out into the river. Here there was some confusion. The line of the allied infantry was being driven back, when the legions took up the contest. The fury of the enemy was checked, and the battle again became equal. At the same time a Batavian deserter came up to Cerialis, offering an opportunity of attacking the enemy's rear, if some cavalry were sent along the edge of the morass. The ground there was firm, and the Gugerni, to whom the post had been allotted, were careless. Two squadrons were sent with the deserter, and outflanked the unsuspecting enemy. At the shout that announced this success, the legions charged in front. The Germans were routed, and fled towards the Rhine. The war would have been finished that day, if the fleet had hastened to come up. As it was, the cavalry did not pursue, for a storm of rain suddenly fell, and night was at hand.

18. Absumptis quae iaciuntur et ardescente pugna procursum ab hoste infestius: immensis corporibus et praelongis hastis fluitantem labantemque militem eminus fodiebant; simul e mole, quam eductam in Rhenum rettulimus, Bructerorum cuneus transnatavit. Turbata ibi res et pellebatur sociarum cohortium acies, cum legiones pugnam excipiunt suppressaque hostium ferocia proelium aequatur. Inter quae perfuga Batavus adiit Cerialem, terga hostium promittens, si extremo paludis eques mitteretur: solidum illa et Cugernos, quibus custodia obvenisset, parum intentos. Duae alae cum perfuga missae incauto hosti circumfunduntur. Quod ubi clamore cognitum, legiones a fronte incubuere, pulsique Germani Rhenum fuga petebant. Debellatum eo die foret, si Romana classis sequi maturasset: ne eques quidem institit, repente fusis imbribus et propinqua nocte.

19. The next day the 14th legion was sent into the Upper Province to join Gallus Annius. The 10th, which had arrived from Spain, supplied its place in the army of Cerialis. Civilis was joined by some auxiliaries from the Chauci. Nevertheless he did not venture to fight for the defence of the Batavian capital, but carrying off property that could be removed, and setting fire to the remainder, he retreated into the island, aware that there were not vessels enough for constructing a bridge, and that the Roman army could not cross the river in any other way. He also demolished the dyke, constructed by Drusus Germanicus, and, by destroying this barrier, sent the river flowing down a steep channel on the side of Gaul. The river having been thus, so to speak, diverted, the narrowness of the channel between the island and Germany created an appearance of an uninterrupted surface of dry ground. Tutor, Classicus, and one hundred and thirteen senators of the Treveri, also crossed the Rhine. Among them was Alpinius Montanus, of whose mission into Gaul by Antonius I have already spoken. He was accompanied by his brother Decimus Alpinius. His other adherents were now endeavouring to collect auxiliaries among these danger-loving tribes by appeals to their pity and their greed.

19. Postera die quartadecima legio in superiorem pro vinciam Gallo Annio missa: Cerialis exercitum decima ex Hispania legio supplevit: Civili Chaucorum auxilia venere. Non tamen ausus oppidum Batavorum armis tueri, raptis quae ferri poterant, ceteris iniecto igni, in insulam concessit, gnarus deesse navis efficiendo ponti, neque exercitum Romanum aliter transmissurum: quin et diruit molem a Druso Germanico factam Rhenumque prono alveo in Galliam ruentem, disiectis quae morabantur, effudit. Sic velut abacto amne tenuis alveus insulam inter Germanosque continentium terrarum speciem fecerat. Transiere Rhenum Tutor quoque et Classicus et centum tredecim Trevirorum senatores, in quis fuit Alpinius Montanus, quem a Primo Antonio missum in Gallias superius memoravimus. Comitabatur eum frater D. Alpinius; simul ceteri miseratione ac donis auxilia concibant inter gentis periculorum avidas.

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