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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Histories


published in Vol. III
of the Loeb Classical Library edition of Tacitus, 1931

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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(Vol. III) Tacitus

p3 Book IV (beginning)

1 1 The death of Vitellius was rather the end of war than the beginning of peace. The victors ranged through the city in arms, pursuing their defeated foes with implacable hatred: the streets were full of carnage, the fora and temples reeked with blood; they slew right and left everyone whom chance put in their way. Presently, as their licence increased, they began to hunt out and drag into the light those who had concealed themselves; did they espy anyone who was tall and young, they cut him down, regardless whether he was soldier or civilian. Their ferocity, which found satisfaction in bloodshed while their hatred was fresh, turned then afterwards to greed. They let no place remain secret or closed, pretending that Vitellians were in hiding. This led to the forcing of private houses or, if resistance was made, became an excuse for murder. Nor was there any lack of starvelings among the mob or of the vilest slaves ready to betray their rich masters; others were pointed out by their friends. Everywhere were lamentations, cries of anguish, and the misfortunes that befall a captured city; so that the citizens actually longed for the licence of Otho's and Vitellius's p5soldiers, which earlier they had detested. The generals of the Flavian party, who had been quick to start the conflagration of civil war, were unequal to the task of controlling their victory, for in times of violence and civil strife the worst men have the greatest power; peace and quiet call for honest arts.

2 1 Domitian had accepted the name of Caesar and the imperial residence,1 with no care as yet for his duties; but with debauchery and adulteries he played the part of an emperor's son. The prefecture of the Praetorian watch was held by Arrius Varus, but the supreme authority was exercised by Antonius Primus. He appropriated money and slaves from the emperor's palace as if it were the booty of Cremona; all the other leaders, whom modesty or humble lineage had made obscure in war, had accordingly no share of the rewards. The citizens were in a state of terror and quite ready for slavery; they demanded that Lucius Vitellius, who was on his way back from Tarracina with his cohorts, should be arrested and that the last embers of war should be extinguished: the cavalry was sent forward to Aricia; the infantry rested this side of Bovillae.2 Vitellius did not hesitate to surrender himself and his legions at the discretion of the victor; his troops threw away their unsuccessful arms no less in anger than in fear. A long line of prisoners, hedged in by armed soldiers, advanced through the city; no man had a suppliant look, but all were gloomy and grim; they faced the cheers, the riot, and the mockery of the crowd unmoved. The few who dared to break out of line were killed by their guards; all the rest were put in ward. No one uttered a word unworthy of him, and even in the midst of misfortune, all p7maintained their reputation for bravery. Next Lucius Vitellius was put to death. His brother's equal in viciousness, he was more vigilant while that brother was emperor; yet he was not so much associated in his brother's success as dragged to ruin by his adversity.

3 1 During these same days Lucilius Bassus3 was sent with a force of light armed cavalry to restore order in Campania, where the people of the towns were rather at variance with one another than rebellious toward the emperor. The sight of the soldiers restored order, and the smaller towns escaped punishment. Capua, however, had the Third legion quartered on it for the winter, and its nobler houses were ruined;4 while the people of Tarracina, on the other hand, received no assistance: so much easier is it to repay injury than to reward kindness, for gratitude is regarded as a burden, revenge as gain. The Tarracines, however, found comfort in the fact that the slave of Verginius Capito, who had betrayed them, was crucified wearing the very rings that he had received from Vitellius.5 But at Rome the senators voted to Vespasian all the honours and privileges usually given the emperors.6 They were filled with joy and confident hope, for it seemed to them that civil warfare, which, breaking out in the Gallic and Spanish provinces, had moved to arms first the Germanies, then Illyricum, and which had traversed Egypt, Judea, Syria, and all provinces and armies, was now at an end, as if the expiation of the whole world had been completed:7 p9their zeal was increased by a letter from Vespasian, written as if war were still going on. That at least was the impression that it made at first; but in reality Vespasian spoke as an emperor, with humility of himself, magnificently of the state. Nor did the senate fail in homage: it elected Vespasian consul with his son Titus, and bestowed a praetorship with consular power on Domitian.8

4 1 Mucianus also had sent a letter to the senate that gave occasion for comment. "If," they said, "he were a private citizen, why this official language? He might have said the same things a few days later, speaking in the senate." Even his attack on Vitellius came too late and showed no independence. But they thought it a haughty thing toward the state and an act of insolence toward the emperor for him to boast that he had had the empire in his own hand and had presented it to Vespasian. Yet their discontent was concealed; their flattery was open: in magnificent terms the senators gave Mucianus the insignia of a triumph, in reality for civil war, although his expedition against the Sarmatae was made the pretext. They also voted Antonius Primus the insignia of consular rank, Cornelius Fuscus and Arrius Varus of praetorian. Then they took thought for the gods: they voted to restore the Capitol. All these measures were proposed by Valerius Asiaticus,9 consul elect; the rest of the senators showed their approval by their looks and hands; a few of conspicuous dignity or whose nature was well trained in flattery expressed themselves in formal speeches. When the turn came to Helvidius Priscus, praetor elect, he spoke in terms p11which, while honourable to a good emperor, . . .10 There was no false flattery in his speech, which was received with enthusiasm by the senate. This was the day that stood out in his career as marking the beginning of great disfavour and of great glory.

5 1 Since I have again had occasion to mention a man of whom I shall have cause to speak many times, I think that I ought to give a brief account of his life and interests, and of the vicissitudes of fortune that he experienced. Helvidius Priscus was born in the town of Cluviae [in the district of Caracina].11 His father had been a centurion of the first rank. In his early youth Helvidius devoted his extraordinary talents to the higher studies, not as most youths do, in order to cloak a useless leisure with a pretentious name, but that he might enter public life better fortified against the chances of fortune. He followed those teachers of philosophy who count only those things "good" which are morally right and only those things "evil" which are base, and who reckon power, high birth, and everything else that is beyond the control of the will as neither good nor bad.12 After he had held only the quaestorship, he was selected by Paetus Thrasea to be his son-in‑law;13 from the character of his father-in‑law he derived above everything the spirit of freedom; as citizen, senator, husband, son-in‑law, and friend he showed himself equal to all of life's duties, despising riches, determined in the right, unmoved by fear.

6 1 Some thought that he was rather too eager for p13fame, since the passion for glory is that from which even philosophers last divest themselves. Driven into exile by the ruin of his father, he returned under Galba and brought charges against Marcellus Eprius, who had informed against Thrasea.14 This attempt to avenge him, at once notable and just, divided the senators: for if Marcellus fell, it was the ruin of a host of the guilty. At first the struggle was threatening, as is proved by the elsewhere speeches on both sides; later, since Galba's attitude was uncertain, Priscus yielded to many appeals from his fellow senators and gave up the prosecution. This action called forth varied comments according to the nature of those who made them, some praising his moderation, others regretting his lack of firmness.

However, at the meeting of the senate at which Vespasian was voted the imperial power, the senators decided to send a delegation to the emperor. This gave rise to a sharp difference between Helvidius and Eprius, for Helvidius demanded that the representatives be chosen by the magistrates under oath, Marcellus demanded a selection by lot, as the consul designate had proposed.

7 1 The interest that Marcellus felt was prompted by his personal vanity and his fear that others might be chosen and so he might seem neglected. Gradually the disputants were swept on in their wrangling to make long and bitter speeches. Helvidius asked Marcellus why he was so afraid of the decision of the magistrates. "You have," he said, "wealth and eloquence in which you would be superior to many, if you were not burdened with men's memory of your crimes. The lot and urn do not judge character; voting and the judgment of p15the senate have been devised as means to penetrate into the life and reputation of the individual. It is for the interests of the state and it touches the honour to be done Vespasian to have the delegation that meets him made up of the men whom the senate considers freest from reproach, that they may fill the emperor's ears with honourable counsels. Vespasian was once the friend of Thrasea, Soranus, and Sentius. Even if it is not well to punish their accusers, we ought not to make a display of them. By its decision in this matter the senate will, in a way, suggest to the emperor whom to approve, whom to fear. For a good government there is no greater instrument at hand than the possession of good friends. You, Marcellus, must be satisfied with the fact that you induced Nero to put to death so many innocent men. Enjoy your rewards15 and immunity; leave Vespasian to better men."

8 1 Marcellus replied that it was not his proposal, but that of the consul designate that was attacked; and it was a proposal that conformed to the ancient precedents, which prescribed that delegates should be chosen by lot, that there might be no room for self-seeking or for hate. Nothing had occurred to give reason for abandoning long-established customs or for turning the honour due an emperor into an insult to any man: they could all pay homage. What they must try to avoid was allowing the wilfulness of certain individuals to irritate the mind of the emperor, who was as yet unbiassed, being newly come to power and watchful of every look and every word. For his own part he remembered the time in which he was born, the form of government that their fathers and grandfathers had established;16 he p17admired the earlier period, but adapted himself to the present; he prayed for good emperors, but endured any sort. It was not by his speech any more than by the judgment of the senate that Thrasea had been brought to ruin; Nero's cruel nature found its delight in such shows of justice, and such a friendship caused him no less anxiety than exile in others. In short, let them set Helvidius on an equality with Cato and Brutus in firmness and courage: for himself, he was only one of a senate which accepted a common servitude. He would also advise Priscus not to exalt himself above an emperor, not to try to check by his precepts a man of ripe age as Vespasian was,17 a man who had gained the insignia of a triumph, and who had sons grown to man's estate. Just as the worst emperors wish for absolute tyrannical power, even the best desire some limit to the freedom of their subjects. These arguments, which were hurled back and forth with great vehemence, were received with different feelings. The party prevailed that favoured the selection of the envoys by lot, for even the ordinary senators were eager to preserve precedent, and all the most prominent also inclined to the same course, fearing to excite envy if they should be selected themselves.

9 1 Another dispute followed. The praetors of the treasury — for at that time the public treasury was managed by praetors — complained of the poverty of the state and asked that expenses should be limited. This problem the consul designate wished to reserve for the emperor in view of the magnitude of the burden and the difficulty of the remedy, but Helvidius held that the decision should rest with the senate. When the consuls began to p19ask the senators their views, Vulcacius Tertullinus, tribune of the people, forbade any decision on so important a matter in the absence of the emperor. Helvidius had proposed that the Capitol should be restored at public expense and that Vespasian should assist in the work. This proposal the more prudent senators passed over in silence, and then allowed it to be forgotten. There were some, however, who remembered it.18

10 1 Then Musonius Rufus19 attacked Publius Celer, charging him with bringing Barea Soranus to ruin by false testimony. This trial seemed to revive the hatred once roused by the informers. But a defendant so base and guilty as Celer could not be protected: the memory of Soranus was revered; Celer had been his teacher in philosophy, then had given testimony against him, thus betraying and profaning friendship, the nature of which he professed to teach. The earliest possible day was set for the case, and men eagerly looked forward to hearing not Musonius or Celer so much as Priscus, Marcellus, and all the rest, for their minds were now set on vengeance.20

11 1 In this state of affairs, when discord reigned among the senators, when the defeated party was filled with rage, and there was no authority among the victors, neither law nor emperor in the state, Mucianus entered the city and took everything into his own hands. The power of Primus Antonius and of Varus Arrius was broken, for Mucianus poorly concealed his anger toward them, although he did not betray his feelings in his looks. But the city, quick to discover offences, had turned and transferred its devotion to Mucianus: he alone was sought out p21and courted. Nor did he fail in his part: surrounded with armed men, changing his houses and gardens, by his parade, his gait, his guards, he grasped at an emperor's power, the title he let pass. The greatest terror was caused by the execution of Calpurnius Galerianus. He was the son of Gaius Piso,21 but he had attempted nothing seditious: yet his eminent name and his handsome appearance made him the subject of gossip, and among the citizens, who were still uneasy and delighted in talk of a revolution, there were enough ready to bestow on him the empty honours of the principate. Mucianus ordered his arrest by a squad of soldiers, and then, fearing that his execution within the city itself would attract too much attention, he had him taken to the fortieth milestone on the Appian Way, where he was put to death by opening his veins. Julius Priscus, prefect of the praetorian cohorts under Vitellius, committed suicide, prompted by shame rather than necessity. Alfenus Varus survived his own cowardice and infamy.22 Asiaticus, being a freedman, paid for his baneful power by a slave's punishment.23

12 1 During these same days the citizens received increasing rumours of disasters in Germany24 with no sign of sorrow: slaughtered armies, the capture of the legions' winter quarters, a revolt of the Gallic provinces men spoke of as though they were not misfortunes. As to that war, I propose to explain its causes somewhat deeply and the extent to which foreign and allied tribes were involved in this conflagration. The Batavians formed part of the p23Chatti25 so long as they lived across the Rhine; then, being expelled by a civil war, they occupied the edge of the Gallic bank which was uninhabited, and likewise an island close by, which is washed by the ocean in front but by the Rhine on its rear and sides.26 Without having their wealth exhausted27 — a thing which is rare in alliance with a stronger people — they furnished our empire only men and arms. They had long training in our wars with the Germans; then later they increased their renown by service in Britain, whither some cohorts were sent, led according to their ancient custom by the noblest among them. They had also at home a select body of cavalry which excelled in swimming; keeping their arms and horses they crossed the Rhine without breaking their formation. . . .28

13 1 Julius Paulus and Julius Civilis were by far the most distinguished among the Batavians, being both of royal stock. On a false charge of revolt, Paulus was executed by Fonteius Capito;29 Civilis was put in chains and sent to Nero, and although acquitted by Galba, he was again exposed to danger under Vitellius owing to the clamour of the army for his punishment:30 these were the causes of his anger, his hopes sprang from our misfortunes. Civilis, however, who was cunning beyond the average barbarian, bore himself also like a Sertorius or a Hannibal, since his face was disfigured like theirs;31 in order to avoid being attacked as an enemy, as he would have been if he had openly revolted from the Romans, he pretended to be a friend of Vespasian p25and enthusiastic for his party; indeed Primus Antonius had actually written to him directing him to divert the auxiliary troops called up by Vitellius and to hold back the legions on the pretext of a German revolt. Hordeonius Flaccus,32 who was on the ground, had given him the same suggestion, moved by his own partiality toward Vespasian and by his anxiety for the state, whose ruin was sure if war were renewed and all those thousands of armed men burst into Italy.

14 1 So then Civilis, having determined to revolt, concealed for the time his deeper purpose, and being ready to determine his other plans by the event, began to make trouble in the following way. At the orders of Vitellius a levy of the young Batavians was now being made. This burden, which is naturally grievous, was made the heavier by the greed and licence of those in charge of the levy: they hunted out the old and the weak that they might get a price for letting them off; again they dragged away the children to satisfy their lust, choosing the handsomest — and the Batavian children are generally tall beyond their years. These acts aroused resentment, and the leaders in the conspiracy, on which they were now determined, persuaded the people to refuse the levy. Civilis called the leaders of his tribe and the boldest of the common people into a sacred grove under the pretext of giving a banquet, and when he saw that the night and revelry had fired their spirits, he began to speak of the honour and glory of their tribe, then passed on to count over their wrongs, the extortion practised on them, and all the rest of the misfortunes of slavery. "For," he declared, "we are no longer regarded as allies, as once we were, but p27as slaves. When does a governor come to us with full commission, even though his suite would be burdensome and insolent if he came? We are handed over to prefects and centurions: after one band is satisfied with murder and spoils, the troops are shifted, and new purses are looked for to be filled and varied pretexts for plundering are sought. We are threatened with a levy which separates children from parents and brothers from brothers, as if in death. Never has the Roman state been in direr straits than now, and there is nothing in their winter camps but booty and old men. Simply lift your eyes and do not fear the empty name of legions. But on our side are our strong infantry and cavalry, our kinsmen the Germans, the Gallic provinces that cherish the same desires as ourselves. Not even the Romans will regard this war with disfavour; if its outcome is uncertain we shall say that it was undertaken for Vespasian; for victory no account is ever rendered."

15 1 His words won great applause, and he bound them all by their national oaths and barbarous rites. Men were despatched to the Canninefates to join them to their plan. The Canninefates live in part of the island;33 in origin, speech, and courage they are equal to the Batavians, but inferior to them in number. Presently by secret messages they won over to their cause auxiliary troops from Britain and the Batavian cohorts that had been sent into Germany, as I have stated above,34 and which were at that time stationed at Mogontiacum.35 There was among the Canninefates a man of brute courage named Brinno, who was of illustrious descent; his father had dared to commit many hostile acts and p29had shown his scorn for Gaius' absurd expeditions without suffering for it.36 The very name of his rebellious family therefore made Brinno a favorite; and in accordance with their tribal custom the Batavians set him on a shield and, lifting him on their shoulders, chose him as their leader. He at once called in the Frisians, a tribe living across the Rhine,37 and assailed by sea the winter camp of two cohorts which were nearest to attack. The Roman troops had not foreseen the assault, and even if they had, they did not have enough strength to keep off the enemy: so the camp was captured and plundered. Then the enemy attacked the Roman foragers and traders who were scattered about the country as if it were a time of peace. At the same time they threatened to destroy the Roman forts, which the prefects of the cohorts burned, for they could not defend them. The Roman ensigns and standards with all the soldiers were concentrated in the upper part of the island under the leadership of Aquilius, a centurion of the first rank;a but they had rather the name than the strength of an army: for when Vitellius had withdrawn the effective cohorts, he had gathered a useless crowd from the nearest cantons of the Nervii and Germans and burdened them with arms.38

16 1 Thinking it best to proceed by craft, Civilis promptly rebuked the prefects for abandoning their forts, and declared that he would crush the revolt of the Canninefates with the cohort under his command; they were to return each to his winter quarters. It was clear that treachery lay behind his advice and that the cohorts when scattered could be more easily crushed; likewise it was plain that the p31real leader in this war was not Brinno but Civilis; the proofs of this gradually appeared, for the Germans, who delight in war, did not long conceal the facts. When treachery did not succeed, Civilis turned to force and organized the Canninefates, the Frisians, and the Batavians, each tribe in a troop by itself: the Roman line was drawn up to oppose them not far from the Rhine, and the vessels which had been brought here after the burning of the forts were turned to front the foe. The battle had not lasted long when a cohort of the Tungriº transferred its standards to Civilis, and the Roman soldiers, demoralized by this sudden betrayal, were cut down by allies and foes alike. There was the same treachery also on the part of the fleet: some of the rowers, being Batavians, by pretending a lack of skill interfered with the sailors and combatants; presently they began to row in the opposite direction and bring the sterns to the bank on which the enemy stood; finally, they killed such of the helmsmen and centurions as did not take their view, until the entire fleet of twenty-four vessels either went over to the enemy or was captured.

17 1 This victory was glorious for the enemy at the moment and useful for the future. They gained arms and boats which they needed, and were greatly extolled as liberators throughout the German and Gallic provinces. The Germans at once sent delegations offering assistance; the Gallic provinces Civilis tried to win to an alliance by craft and gifts, sending back the captured prefects to their own states and giving the soldiers of the cohorts permission to go or stay as they pleased. Those who stayed were given honourable service in the army, p33those who left were offered spoils taken from the Romans. At the same time in private conversation he reminded them of the miseries that they had endured so many years while they falsely called their wretched servitude a peace. "The Batavians," he said, "although free from tribute, have taken up arms against our common masters. In the very first engagement the Romans have been routed and defeated. What if the Gallic provinces should throw off the yoke? What forces are there left in Italy? It is by the blood of the provinces that provinces are won. Do not think of Vindex's battle. It was the Batavian cavalry that crushed the Aedui and Averni; among the auxiliary forces of Verginiusº were Belgians, and if you consider the matter aright you will see that Gaul owed its fall to its own forces. Now all belong to the same party, and we have gained besides all the strength that military training in Roman camps can give; I have with me veteran cohorts before which Otho's legions lately succumbed. Let Syria, Asia, and the East, which is accustomed to kings, play the slave; there are many still alive in Gaul who were born before tribute was known. Surely it was not long ago that slavery was driven from Germany by the killing of Quintilius Varus,39 and the emperor whom the Germans then challenged was not a Vitellius but a Caesar Augustus. Liberty is a gift which nature has granted even to dumb animals, but courage is the peculiar blessing of man. The gods favour the braver: on, therefore, carefree against the distressed, fresh against the weary. While some favour Vespasian and others Vitellius, the field is open against both." 18 In this way Civilis, p35turning his attention eagerly toward the Germanies and the Gauls, was preparing, should his plans prove successful, to gain the kingship over the strongest and richest nations.

But Hordeonius Flaccus furthered his enterprises at first by affecting to be unaware of them; when, however, terrified messengers brought word of the capture of camps, the destruction of cohorts, and the expulsion of the Roman name from the island of the Batavians, he ordered Munius Lupercus, who commanded the two legions in winter quarters, to take the field against the foe. Lupercus quickly transported to the island all the legionaries that he had, as well as the Ubii from the auxiliaries quartered close by and a body of Treviran cavalry which was not far away. He joined to these forces a squadron of Batavian cavalry, which, although already won over to the other side, still pretended to be faithful, that by betraying the Romans on the very field itself it might win a greater reward for its desertion. Civilis had the standards of the captured cohorts ranged about him that his own troops might have the evidence of their newly-won glory before their eyes and that the enemy might be terrified by the memory of their defeat; he ordered his own mother and his sisters, likewise the wives and little children of all his men, to take their stand behind his troops to encourage them to victory or to shame them if defeated. When the enemy's line re-echoed with the men's singing and the women's cries, the shout with which the legions and cohorts answered was far from equal. Our left had already been exposed by the desertion of the Batavian horse, which at once turned against us. Yet the legionary troops kept p37their arms and maintained their ranks in spite of the alarming situation. The auxiliary forces made up of the Ubii and Treveri fled disgracefully and wandered in disorder over the country. The Germans made them the object of their attack, and so the legions meanwhile were able to escape to the camp called Vetera.40 Claudius Labeo, who was in command of the Batavian horse, had been a rival of Civilis in some local matter, and was consequently now removed to the Frisii, that he might not, if killed, excite his fellow-tribesmen to anger, or, if kept with the forces, sow seeds of discord.

19 1 At this time a messenger dispatched by Civilis overtook the cohorts of Batavi and Canninefates which were on their way to Rome in accordance with the orders of Vitellius.41 They were at once puffed up with pride and insolence: they demanded a gift as a reward for their journey; they insisted on double pay and an increase in the number of cavalry;42 these things, it is true, had been promised by Vitellius, but the cohorts' real purpose was not to obtain their demands, but to find an excuse for revolt. In fact by granting many of their demands Flaccus accomplished nothing except to make them insist all the more on things which they knew he would refuse. They treated him with scorn and started for Lower Germany to join Civilis. Hordeonius summoned the tribunes and centurions and consulted them as to whether he should check the disobedient troops by force; then, moved by his natural timidity and the terrors of his subordinates, who were distressed by the uncertain temper of the auxiliaries and by the fact that the legions had been filled up from a hasty levy, he decided to keep his p39soldiers in camp. Next, repenting of his decision and influenced by the very men who had advised it, he wrote, as though purposing to follow himself, to the commander of the First legion, Herennius Gallus, stationed at Bonn, to keep the Batavi from passing; and added that he would press hard on their rear with his troops. Indeed the Batavi might have been crushed if Hordeonius on one side and Gallus on the other had moved their troops from both directions and caught the foe between them. Flaccus abandoned the undertaking and in a second letter warned Gallus not to alarm the Batavians as they withdrew: this gave rise to the suspicion that war was being begun with the approval of the Roman commanders, and that everything that had happened or that men feared would come to pass was due not to the inactivity of the soldiers of the power of the enemy, but to treachery on the part of the generals.

20 1 When the Batavi were approaching the camp at Bonn, they sent a messenger ahead to set forth to Herennius Gallus the demands of the cohorts. This messenger said that they were not making war on the Romans on whose behalf they had often fought, but that they were weary of their long and profitless service and longed for their home and a life of peace. If no one opposed them they would pass without doing any harm; but if armed resistance were offered, they would find a path with the sword. When Gallus hesitated, the soldiers urged him to try the issue of battle. Three thousand legionaries and some cohorts of Belgians, which had been hastily raised, as well as a band of peasants and foragers, unwarlike but bold before they met actual danger, p41burst out of all the gates at once to surround the Batavi, who were inferior in numbers. But they, being veterans in service, gathered in solid columns, with their ranks closed on every side, secure on front and flanks and rear; so they broke through our thin line. When the Belgians gave way, the legion was driven back and in terror rushed for the rampart and gates of the camp. At these points there were the greatest losses: the ditches were heaped high with bodies and our men died not only by the sword and from wounds, but also from the crush and very many by their own weapons. The victors avoided Cologne and made no other hostile attempt during the rest of their march; they excused the battle at Bonn on the ground that they had asked for peace, and when this was refused, had consulted their own interests.

21 1 The arrival of these veteran cohorts put Civilis in command of a real army, but being still uncertain what course to adopt and reflecting on the power of the Romans, he had all his forces swear allegiance to Vespasian, and sent a delegation to the two legions which after their recent defeat had retired to the camp called Vetera, bidding them take the same oath. They replied: "We do not follow the advice of a traitor or of enemies. Our emperor is Vitellius, for whom we will keep faith and fight to our last breath: no Batavian deserter therefore shall play the arbiter of Rome's destiny, but rather let him expect the punishment his crime deserves." On receiving this reply Civilis, hot with rage, swept the whole Batavian people into arms; the Bructeri and Tencteri43 joined, and the Germans, summoned by messengers, hurried to share in booty and glory.

22 1 To meet this threatening war that was rising p43from many quarters the commanders of the legions, Munius Lupercus and Numisius Rufus, began to strengthen the palisade and rampart of their camp. They tore down the buildings that had been erected during the long peace, and which in fact hadº grown into a town not far from the camp, for they did not wish them to be of service to the foe. But they did not take sufficient care to have supplies collected; they allowed the troops to pillage: so that in a few days the soldiers' recklessness exhausted what would have met their needs for a long time. Civilis took his post in the centre of his army along with the pick of the Batavi, and to make a more frightful appearance, he filled both banks of the Rhine with bands of Germans, while his cavalry ranged the open plains; and at the same time the ships moved up stream. On one side were the standards of the veteran cohorts, on the other the images of wild beasts taken from the woods and groves, which each tribe carries into battle: these emblems, suggesting at once civil and foreign wars, terrified the besieged troops. In addition the besiegers were encouraged by the extent of the Roman ramparts, which had been built for two legions,44 but which now had barely five thousand armed Romans to defend them; there was, however, also a crowd of sutlers who had gathered there at the first trouble and who assisted in the struggle.

23 1 Part of the camp lay on a gentle slope; part could be approached on level ground. Augustus had believed that these winter quarters could keep the Germanies in hand and indeed in subjection, and had never thought of such a disaster as to have the Germans actually assail our legions; therefore nothing had been done to add to the strength of the p45position or of the fortifications: the armed force seemed sufficient. The Batavi and the peoples from across the Rhine,45 to exhibit their individual prowess more clearly, formed each tribe by itself and opened fire first from some distance; but when most of their weapons stuck uselessly in the towers and battlements and they were suffering from the stones shot down on them, with a shout they assailed the ramparts, many raising scaling-ladders, others climbing on a "tortoise" formed by their comrades. Some were already in the act of mounting the walls, when the legionaries threw them down with their swords and shields and buried them under a shower of stakes and javelins. These peoples are always at first too impetuous and easily emboldened by success; but now in their greed for booty they were ready to brave reverses as well, venturing even to use siege machines also, which they are not accustomed to employ. They had no skill in these themselves: deserters and captives taught them how to build of timber a kind of bridge, to put wheels under the structure, and then to push it forward, so that some standing on the top might fight as from a mound and others concealed within might undermine the walls; but stones shot from ballistae broke up the rude structure, and when they began to prepare screens and sheds, the Romans shot blazing darts at these with cross-bows, and threatened the assailants also with fire, until the barbarians, despairing of success by force, changed to a policy of delay, being well aware that the camp had provisions for only a few days and that it contained a great crowd of non-combatants; at the same time they counted on treachery as a result of want, and on the uncertain faith of the slaves and the chances of war.

p47 24 1 Flaccus46 meanwhile, on hearing that the camp was besieged, sent emissaries through the Gallic provinces to call out auxiliary forces, and entrusted troops picked from his two legions47 to Dillius Vocula, commander of the Twenty-second legion, with orders to hurry as rapidly as possible along the bank of the Rhine; Flaccus himself went by boat, being in poor health and unpopular with the soldiers; for indeed they murmured against him in no uncertain tone, saying that he had let the Batavian cohorts go from Mogontiacum, had concealed his knowledge of the undertakings of Civilis, and was making allies of the Germans. "Neither Primus Antonius nor Mucianus," they declared, "has contributed more to the strength of Vespasian than Flaccus. Frank hatred and armed action are openly repelled: treachery and deceit are hidden and so cannot be guarded against. Civilis stands before us and forms his battle line; Hordeonius from his chamber and his bed issues orders that are to the enemy's advantage. All these armed companies of the bravest men are dependent on the whim of one sick old man! Rather let us kill the traitor and free our fortune and bravery from this evil omen!" When they had already roused one another by such exhortations, they were further inflamed by a letter from Vespasian, which Flaccus, being unable to conceal it, read aloud before a general assembly, and then sent the men who had brought it in chains to Vitellius.

25 1 In this way the soldiers' anger was appeased and they came to Bonn, the winter quarters of the First legion. There the soldiers were still more threatening and placed the blame for their disaster48 on Hordeonius: for they declared that it was by his p49orders that they had given battle to the Batavi, under assurance that the legions were following from Mogontiacum; that by his treachery their comrades had been killed, since no help came to them: that these facts were unknown to the rest of the armies and were not reported to their emperor, although this fresh treachery might have been blocked by a prompt effort on the part of all the provinces. Hordeonius read to the army copies of all the letters that he had dispatched throughout the Gauls, Britain, and the Spains asking for aid. Moreover, he established the worst kind of precedent by turning over all letters to the eagle-bearers of the legions, who read them to the common soldiers before they were disclosed to the commanders. Then he ordered a single one of the mutineers to be arrested, rather to vindicate his authority than because the fault was that of an individual. The army next advanced from Bonn to Cologne, while Gallic auxiliary troops poured in, for the Gauls at first gave vigorous assistance to the Roman cause: later, as the German strength increased, many states took up arms against us, inspired by hope of freedom and by a desire to have an empire of their own, if they once were rid of servitude. The angry temper of the legions increased and the arrest of a single soldier had brought them no fear: indeed this same soldier actually charged the general with being privy to the revolt, claiming that, having been an agent between Civilis and Flaccus, he was now being crushed on a false charge because he could bear witness to the truth. Vocula with admirable courage mounted the tribunal and ordered the soldier to be seized, and, in spite of his cries, directed that he be p51led away to punishment. While the disloyal were cowed, the best obeyed the order. Then, since the troops unanimously demanded Vocula as their general, Flaccus turned over to him the chief command.

26 1 But there were many things that exasperated their rebellious temper: there was a lack of pay and grain, and at the same time the Gallic provinces scornfully refused a levy and tribute; the Rhine hardly floated boats, owing to a drought unprecedented in that climate; reprovisionment was hampered; detachments were posted all along the bank of the Rhine to keep the Germans from fording it, and for the same reason there was less grain while there were more to eat it. The ignorant regarded even the low water as a prodigy, as if the very rivers, the ancient defences of our empire, were failing us: what they would have called in time of peace an act of chance or nature, they then called fate and the wrath of the gods.

When our troops entered Novaesium49 the Sixteenth legion joined them. Vocula now had Herennius Gallus associated with him to share his responsibilities; and not daring to move against the enemy, they pitched camp at a place called Gelduba.50 There they improved the morale of their soldiers by drilling them in battle formation, by having them erect fortifications and a palisade, and by all other forms of military training; and to fire their bravery by giving them a chance to pillage, Vocula led a force into the nearest cantons of the Cugerni,51 who had allied themselves with Civilis; part of the troops remained with Herennius Gallus.

27 1 Now it happened that not far from camp p53the Germans started to drag to their bank a ship loaded with grain which had grounded on a bar. Gallus did not wish to allow this and sent a cohort to rescue the ship: the Germans also were reinforced, and as assistance gradually gathered, the two sides engaged in a pitched battle. The Germans inflicted heavy losses on our men and got the ship away. The defeated Roman troops, as had then become their fashion, did not blame their own lack of energy, but charged their commander with treachery. They dragged him from his tent, tore his clothing and beat him, bidding him tell what bribe he had received and who his accomplices were in betraying his troops. Their anger toward Hordeonius returned: they called him the author and Gallus the tool, until, frightened by their threats to kill him, he himself actually charged Hordeonius with treachery; and then Hordeonius was put in chains and only released on Vocula's arrival. The following day Vocula had the ringleaders in the mutiny put to death, so great was the contrast in this army between unbridled licence and obedient submission. Undoubtedly the common soldiers were faithful to Vitellius, but all the officers inclined to favour Vespasian: hence that alternation of crimes and punishment and that combination of rage with obedience, so that although the troops could be punished they could not be controlled.

28 1 But meanwhile the power of Civilis was being increased by huge reinforcements from all Germany, the alliances being secured by hostages of the highest rank. He ordered the peoples who were nearest to harry the Ubii and Treviri, and directed another force to cross the Meuse to threaten the Menapii and Morini and the borders of the Gallic p55provinces.52 Booty was secured from both districts, but they proceeded with greater severity in the case of the Ubii, because, though a tribe of Germanic origin, they had forsworn their native land and taken the Roman name of Agrippinenses.53 Some of their cohorts had been cut to pieces in the district of Marcodurum,54 where they were operating carelessly, being far from the bank of the Rhine. Yet the Ubii did not quietly refrain from making plundering raids on Germany, at first with impunity; but later they were cut off, and in fact throughout this entire war their good faith proved superior to their good fortune. After crushing the Ubii, Civilis became more threatening, and, being emboldened by his success, pressed on the siege of the legions, keeping strict guard to see that no secret messenger should get through to report the approach of assistance. He charged the Batavi with the duty of building machines and siege works: the forces from across the Rhine who demanded battle, he told to go and tear down the Romans' rampart, and when they were repulsed, he made them renew the conflict, for the number was more than enough and the loss easy to bear.

29 1 Not even night ended the struggle. The assailants lighted piles of wood about the town, and while they feasted, as man after man became inflamed with wine, they rushed to battle with unavailing recklessness, for their weapons, thrown into the darkness, were of no effect: but the Romans aimed at the barbarians' line, which they could clearly see, and especially at anyone who was marked by his courage or decorations. Civilis, grasping the situation, ordered his men to put out their fires and to p57add the confusion of darkness to the combat. Then in truth it was all discordant cries, uncertain chances, no one could see to strike or parry: wherever a shout was raised, there they turned and lunged; courage was of no avail, chance made utter confusion, and often the bravest fell under the weapons of cowards. The Germans obeyed only blind fury; the Roman soldiers, being experienced in danger, did not shoot their iron-tipped pikes and heavy stones at random. When the sound showed them that men were climbing up the walls, or the raising of ladders delivered their foes into their hands, they beat them down with the bosses of their shields and followed this action with their javelins; many who scaled the walls they stabbed with daggers. When the night had been thus spent, the day disclosed a new struggle.

30 1 The Batavi had built a tower with two stories. This they pushed toward the praetorian gate,55 as the ground was most level there, but the Romans thrust out against it strong poles, and with repeated blows of beams broke it down, inflicting heavy loss on those who were on it. Then, while their foes were in disorder, they made a sudden and successful sally upon them; and at the same time the legionaries, who were superior in skill and artifices, devised further means against them. The barbarians were most terrified by a well-balanced machine poised above them, which being suddenly dropped caught up one or more of the enemy before the eyes of their comrades and with a shift of the counterweight threw them into camp. Civilis now gave up hope of capturing the camp by storm and again began an inactive siege, trying meanwhile to p59shake the confidence of the legions by messages and promises.

31 1 These things took place in Germany before the battle of Cremona,56 the result of which was learned through a letter from Primus Antonius, to which was added a proclamation issued by Caecina; and a prefect of a cohort from the defeated side, one Alpinius Montanus, acknowledged in person the misfortune of his party. This news aroused different emotions: the Gallic auxiliaries, who felt no party attachment or hatred and who served without enthusiasm, at the instigation of their officers immediately abandoned Vitellius; the veteran soldiers hesitated. But at the command of Hordeonius Flaccus and moved by the appeals of their tribunes, they took an oath which neither their looks nor their wills quite confirmed: and while they repeated the greater part of the usual formula, they hesitated at Vespasian's name, some murmuring it faintly, most passing it over in silence.

32 1 Then some letters of Antonius to Civilis, being read before the assembled troops, roused their suspicions, for they seemed to be addressed to an ally and spoke in hostile fashion of the German army. Presently, when the news reached the Roman camp at Gelduba, it caused the same discussions and the same acts; and Montanus was sent to Civilis with orders bidding him give up the war and cease cloaking hostile acts with a false pretext:57 he was to say that if Civilis had moved to help Vespasian, his efforts had already been sufficient. To this Civilis at first made a crafty answer: afterwards, when he saw that Montanus was of an impetuous nature and inclined to revolt, he began to complain of the dangers which p61he had passed through for twenty-five years in the camps of the Romans. "A glorious reward indeed," said he, "have I gained for my labours — my brother's murder, my own chains, and the savage cries of this army here, demanding my punishment; the right of nations warrants me in demanding vengeance for these things. You Treviri likewise and all the rest of you who have the spirits of slaves, what return do you expect for the blood you have so often shed save an ungrateful service in arms, endless tribute, floggings, the axes of the executioner, and all that your masters' wits can devise? See how I, prefect of a single cohort, with the Canninefates and Batavi, a trifling part of all the Gauls, have shown their vast camps to be in vain and have destroyed them or am besetting them and pressing them hard with sword and famine. In short, be bold! Either liberty will follow your daring or we shall all be defeated together." With such words Civilis inflamed Montanus, but he sent him away with orders to make a mild report. So Montanus returned, bearing himself as though he had failed in his embassy, but concealing all that later came to light.

33 1 Civilis retained part of his troops with him, but dispatched the veteran cohorts and the best of the Germans under the leadership of Julius Maximus and Claudius Victor, his own nephew, to attack Vocula and his army. On their march they plundered the winter quarters of a squadron of cavalry at Asciburgium;58 and they assailed Vocula's camp59 so unexpectedly that he could not address his soldiers or form his men in line; the only advice that he could give in the confusion was to strengthen the centre with the legionaries: the auxiliary troops p63were scattered about everywhere. The cavalry charged, but, being received by the enemy in good order, fled back to their own lines. What followed was a massacre, not a battle. The Nervian cohorts also, prompted by fear or treachery, left our flanks unprotected: thus the burden now fell upon the legionaries, and they, having lost their standards, were already being cut down inside the palisade, when suddenly unexpected aid changed the fortune of the battle. Some cohorts of the Vascones60 which Galba had levied earlier and which had now been sent for, approaching camp and hearing the sound of the struggle, assailed the enemy in the rear while they were absorbed in the contest, and caused a more widespread panic than their numbers warranted, some imagining that all the troops from Novaesium, others that those from Mogontiacum,º had arrived. The enemy's mistake inspired the Romans with courage, and while trusting in the strength of others, they recovered their own. All the best of the Batavian infantry were cut down; their horse escaped with the standards and captives that they had seized at the first onset. The number of the killed on our side that day was larger, but was not made up of the bravest; the Germans lost their very best troops.

34 1 The generals on both sides by equal faults deserved their reverses and failed to use their success: had Civilis put more troops in line, he could not have been surrounded by so few cohorts, and after breaking into the Roman camp, he would have destroyed it: Vocula failed to discover the enemy's approach, and therefore the moment that he sallied forth he was beaten; then, lacking confidence in his p65victory, he wasted some days before advancing against the foe, whereas if he had been prompt to press him hard and to follow up events, he might have raised the siege of the legions at one blow. Meanwhile Civilis had tested the temper of the besieged by pretending that the Roman cause was lost and that his side was victorious: he paraded the Roman ensigns and standards; he even exhibited captives. One of these had the courage to do an heroic deed, shouting out the truth, for which he was at once run through by the Germans: their act inspired the greater confidence in his statement; and at the same time the harried fields and the fires of the burning farm-houses announced the approach of a victorious army. When in sight of camp Vocula ordered the standards to be set up and a ditch and a palisade to be constructed about them, bidding his troops leave their baggage and kits there that they might fight unencumbered. This caused the troops to cry out against their commander and to demand instant battle; and in fact they had grown accustomed to threaten. Without taking time even to form a line, disordered and weary as they were, they engaged the enemy; for Civilis was ready for them, trusting in his opponents' mistakes no less than in the bravery of his own troops. Fortune varied on the Roman side, and the most mutinous proved cowards: some there were who, remembering their recent victory, kept their places, struck at the enemy, exhorted one another and their neighbours as well; reforming the line they held out hands to the besieged, begging them not to lose their opportunity. The latter, who saw everything from the walls, sallied forth from all the gates of their camp. Now at this p67moment Civilis's horse happened to slip and throw him; whereupon both sides accepted the report that he had been wounded or killed. It was marvellous how this belief terrified his men and inspired their foes with enthusiasm: yet Vocula, neglecting to pursue his flying foes, proceeded to strengthen the palisade and towers of his camp as if he were again threatened with siege, thus by his repeated failure to take advantage of victory giving good ground for the suspicion that he preferred war to peace.

35 1 Nothing distressed our troops so much as the lack of provisions. The legions' baggage train was sent on to Novaesium with the men who were unfit for service to bring provisions from there overland; for the enemy controlled the river. The first convoy went without trouble, since Civilis was not yet strong enough to attack. But when he heard that the sutlers, who had been despatched again to Novaesium, and the cohorts escorting them were proceeding as if in time of peace, that there were few soldiers with the standards, that their arms were being carried in the carts while they all strolled along at will, he drew up his forces and attacked them, sending first some troops to occupy the bridges and narrow parts of the roads. They fought in a long line and indecisively until at last night put an end to the conflict. The cohorts reached Gelduba, where the camp remained in its old condition, being held by a force which had been left there. They had no doubt of the great danger that they would run if they returned with the sutlers heavily loaded and in a state of terror. Vocula reinforced his army with a thousand men picked from the Fifth and Fifteenth legions that had been besieged at Vetera, p69troops untamed and hostile toward their commanders. More men started than had been ordered to do so, and on the march they began to murmur openly that they would no longer endure hunger or the plots of their commanders; but those who were being left behind complained that they were being abandoned by the withdrawal of part of the legions. So a double mutiny began, some urging Vocula to return, others refusing to go back to camp.

36 1 Meanwhile Civilis besieged Vetera: Vocula withdrew to Gelduba and then to Novaesium. Later he was successful in an engagement with the cavalry not far from Novaesium. But success and failure alike fired the soldiers with a wish to murder their leaders; and when the legionaries had been reinforced by the arrival of the men from the Fifth and Fifteenth, they began at once demand the donative, for they had learned that Vitellius had sent the money. Hordeonius did not long delay, but gave them the gift in Vespasian's name, and this act more than anything else fostered the mutiny. The soldiers, abandoning themselves to debauchery, feasts, and meetings by night, revived their old hatred for Hordeonius, and without a legate or tribune daring to oppose them, they actually dragged him from his bed and killed him. They were preparing to treat Vocula in the same way, but he disguised himself in a slave's clothes and escaped in the darkness.

37 1 When this outburst died down, their fears returned; and the troops sent centurions with letters to the Gallic communities to ask for auxiliary p71troops and contributions: they themselves, for a mob without a leader is always hasty, timid, and without energy, at the approach of Civilis quickly caught up their arms, then immediately dropped them and fled. Adversity bred discord among them, and men from the army of Upper Germany dissociated their cause from that of the rest; still the images of Vitellius were replaced in camp and in the nearest Belgian communities, although he was already dead.61 Then, repenting their action, the men of the First, Fourth, and Twenty-second legions followed Vocula, who made them take again the oath of allegiance to Vespasian and led them to break the siege of Mogontiacum.º But the besiegers, a motley army made up of Chatti, Usipi, and Mattiaci,62 had already withdrawn, satisfied with their booty; however, they suffered some loss, for our soldiers had fallen on them while they were scattered and unsuspecting. Moreover, the Treviri built a breastwork and palisade along their borders and fought the Germans with great losses on both sides, until presently by their rebellion they sullied the record of their conspicuous services to the Roman people.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Cf. III.86.

2 Bovillae was ten miles from Rome on the Appian Way, Aricia sixteen.

3 Cf. III.12.

4 Capua was loyal to Vitellius, while Tarracina had favoured Vespasian.

5 As the insignia of equestrian rank. Cf. I.13.

6 The senatus consultum de imperio Vespasiani is still extant in part: CIL VI.930; Dessau: Ins. Lat. Sel. 244.

7 Tacitus here thinks of the blood shed in the civil war as an expiation for the sins of the guilty world. In the Roman ceremony of the lustratio the sacrificial animals were driven around the people, place, or objects to be purified, their blood thereby becoming a cleansing offering to the gods. In English there is no word exactly equivalent to the Latin lustrare, "to go around to purify."

8 This was done because Vespasian and Titus were still in the East.

9 Son-in‑law of Vitellius.

10 How much has been lost from the text here we cannot now say, nor can we accurately conjecture what Helvidius said. But clearly his speech lacked warmth and enthusiasm towards Vespasian, and it apparently contained some plain advice for the new, but not inexperienced, emperor. Cf. chap. viii below.

11 In Samnium.

12 The Stoic sect, whose stricter members held virtue alone to be worthy of man's interest: whatever lay beyond the control of the will — health, strength, personal beauty, no less than "external goods" — was a matter of indifference to the philosopher.

13 Cf. II.91.

14 Cf. II.53.

15 Marcellus received 5,000,000 sesterces for prosecuting Thrasea. — Ann. XVI.33.

16 That is, the establishment of the empire by Augustus.

17 He was now fifty-nine.

18 Helvidius was thought to have slighted Vespasian by inviting merely to assist in the restoration.

19 Cf. III.81.

20 Celer was condemned. Cf. chap. xl below.

21 Gaius Piso conspired against Nero in 65 A.D., and on the discovery of the conspiracy committed suicide. Cf. Ann. XV.59.

22 Cf. III.61.

23 His elevation to equestrian rank was told in II.57. He was now crucified.

24 Cf. III.46.

25 The Chatti, one of the most warlike of the German tribes, lived in districts known to‑day as Hessen-Nassau and Waldeck. For a description of this tribe, see Germania 29‑31.

26 This insula Batavorum, about sixty miles in length, is formed by the Rhine and the Waal. The name is preserved in the modern Betuwe.º

27 That is, they were not taxed.

28 What has been lost here cannot now be accurately determined.

29 Apparently in connection with the revolt of Vindex. Cf. I.6.

30 Cf. I.59.

31 That is, he had lost an eye.

32 Governor of Upper Germany.

33 In the northern part of the island.

Thayer's Note: Jona Lendering tells me that they lived in the west of the island between Rhine and Waal/Meuse; their capital was Voorburg, and an inscription has been found spelling their name Cananefates.

34 II.29.

35 Mainz.

36 Cf.  Suet. Caligula 43‑47, for Caligula's ridiculous attempts.

37 Living in modern Friesland.

38 The Nervii lived chiefly in the modern Belgian districts of Hainaut and Namur, on both banks of the Sambre. The Germans here referred to must be Germanic tribes living in modern Namur and Luxembourg, spoken of by Caesar as the Germani cisrhenani, B. G. VI.2; cf. II.4.

39 In 9 A.D.

40 Near the modern Xanten.

For good details, see this photogazetteer page at Livius.

41 Cf. I.59; II.97; and IV.15.

42 The legionaries received ten asses daily, the auxiliaries probably somewhat less. The cavalry enjoyed higher pay than the foot.

43 The Tencteri lived between the Rhine, the Ruhr, and the Lippe; the Bructeri somewhat to the north between the Lippe and the upper Ems.

44 That is, for about 12,000 men when at full strength.

45 The Bructeri, Tencteri, and Frisii (chapters xv, xxi).

46 At his headquarters at Mainz.

47 The Twenty-second and the Fourth Macedonian.

48 At Vetera. Cf. chap. xx.

49 Neuss, near Düsseldorf, but to the west of the Rhine.

50 Gellep.

51 Living between Ubii and the Batavians.

52 The Menapii lived between the Meuse and the Scheldt; the Morini to the south-west of the Menapii on the coast.

53 Cf. I.56.

54 Now Duren.

55 The gate to the camp toward the enemy, so named from its relation to the quarters of the commanding officer, the praetorium.

56 That is, before the end of October, 69 A.D.

57 That is, he pretended to favour Vespasian, but he was actually declaring war on the Roman Empire.

58 Asberg.

59 At Gelduba, now Gellep. Cf. chap. xxvi above.

60 The ancestors apparently of the modern Basques, then living in the north-eastern part of Hispania Tarraconensis.

61 Vitellius was killed Dec. 20 or 21. Cf. III.85.

62 For the Chatti, see note on chap. xii. The Usipi lived south of the Tencteri (chap. xxi) and west of the Chatti, between the Sieg and the Lahn; the Mattiaci dwelt between the Main, the Rhine and the Lahn, around the present Wiesbaden.

Thayer's Note:

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