[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail:
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]
Italiano

[Link to a series of help pages]
Help
[Link to the next level up]
Up
[Link to my homepage]
Home

[image ALT: link to previous section]
IV.38‑53

This webpage reproduces a section of
The Histories

of
Tacitus

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

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next section]
IV.80‑86

(Vol. III) Tacitus
Histories

Book IV (continued)

p103 54 1 In the meantime1 the news of the death of Vitellius, spreading through the Gallic and German provinces, had started a second war; for Civilis, now dropping all pretence, openly attacked the Roman people, and the legions of Vitellius preferred to be subject even to foreign domination rather than to obey Vespasian as emperor. The Gauls had plucked up fresh courage, believing that all our armies were everywhere in the same case, for the rumour had spread that our winter quarters in Moesia and Pannonia were being besieged by the Sarmatae and Dacians; similar stories were invented about Britain. But nothing had encouraged them to believe that the end of our rule was at hand so much as the burning of the Capitol. "Once long ago Rome was captured by the Gauls, but since Jove's home was unharmed, the Roman power stood firm: now this fatal conflagration has given a proof from heaven of the divine wrath and presages the passage of the sovereignty of the world to the peoples beyond the Alps." Such were the vain and superstitious prophecies of the Druids. Moreover, the report had gone abroad that the Gallic chiefs, when sent by Otho to oppose Vitellius, had pledged themselves before their departure not to fail the cause of freedom in case an unbroken series of civil wars and internal troubles destroyed the power of the Roman people.

55 1 Before the murder of Hordeonius Flaccus nothing came to the surface to make the conspiracy known: but after Hordeonius had been killed, messengers passed between Civilis and Classicus, p105prefect of the Treviran cavalry. Classicus was superior to the others in birth and wealth; he was of royal family and his line had been famous in both peace and war, and he himself boasted that more of his ancestors had been enemies than allies of the Romans. Julius Tutor and Julius Sabinus joined the conspirators: Tutor was of the tribe of the Treviri, Sabinus one of the Lingones. Tutor had been made prefect of the bank of the Rhine by Vitellius;2 Sabinus was fired by his native vanity, and especially by his pride in his imaginary descent, for it was said that his great-grandmother by her charms and complaisance had found favour in the eyes of the deified Julius when he was carrying on his campaigns in Gaul. These chiefs by private interviews first tested the sentiments of all their associates; then, when they had secured the participation of those whom they thought suitable, they met at Cologne in a private house, for the state in its public capacity shrank from such an undertaking; and yet some of the Ubii and Tungri were present. But the Treviri and the Lingones, who had the dominant power in the matter, permitted no delay in deliberation. They rivalled one another in declaring that the Roman people were wild with discord, that the legions were cut to pieces, Italy laid waste, Rome at that moment was being captured,3 and that all the Roman armies were occupied each with its own wars: if they but held the Alps with armed forces, the Gallic lands, once sure of their freedom, would have only to decide what limits they wished to set to their power.

56 1 These statements were approved as soon as made: with regard to the survivors of the army of Vitellius they were in doubt. The majority were p107for putting them to death on the ground that they were mutinous, untrustworthy, and defiled with the blood of their commanders: the proposal to spare them, however, prevailed since the conspirators feared to provoke an obstinate resistance if they deprived the troops of all hope of mercy: it was argued that these soldiers should rather be won over to alliance. "If we execute only the commanders of the legions," they said, "the general mass of the soldiers will be easily led to join us by their consciousness of guilt and by their hope of escaping punishment." This was in brief the result of their first deliberation; and they sent emissaries through the Gallic provinces to stir up war; the ringleaders feigned submission in order to take Vocula the more off his guard. Yet there was no lack of people to carry the story to Vocula; he, however, did not have force enough to check the conspiracy, for the legions were incomplete and not to be trusted. Between his soldiers whom he suspected and his secret foes, he thought it best for the time to dissemble in his turn and to employ the same methods of attack that were being used against him, and accordingly went down to Cologne. There Claudius Labeo, of whose capture and banishment among the Frisians I have spoken above,4 fled for refuge, having bribed his guards to let him escape; and now he promised, if he were given a force of men, that he would go among the Batavians and bring the majority of that people back to alliance with Rome. He got a small force of foot and horse, but he did not dare to undertake anything among the Batavians; however, he did induce some of the Nervii and Baetasii5 to take up arms, and he continuously harried the Canninefates and Marsaci6 rather by stealth than in open war.

p109 57 1 Vocula, lured on by the artifices of the Gauls, hurried against the enemy; and he was not far from Vetera when Classicus and Tutor, advancing from the main force under the pretext of reconnoitring, concluded their agreement with the German chiefs, and it was then that they first withdrew apart from the legions and fortified their own camp with a separate rampart, although Vocula protested that the Roman state had not yet been so broken by civil war as to be an object of contempt in the eyes of even the Treviri and Lingones. "There are still left faithful provinces," he said; "there still remain victorious armies, the fortune of the empire, and the avenging gods. Thus in former times Sacrovir and the Aeduans, more recently Vindex and all the Gallic provinces, have been crushed in a single battle. Those who break treaties must still face the same divinities, the same fates as before. The deified Julius and the deified Augustus better understood the spirit of the Gauls: Galba's acts and the reduction of the tribute have inspired them with a hostile spirit. Now they are enemies because the burden of their servitude is light; when we have despoiled and stripped them they will be friends." After speaking thus in anger, seeing that Classicus and Tutor persisted in their treachery, Vocula turned and withdrew to Novaesium: the Gauls occupied a position two miles away. There the centurions and soldiers frequently visited them, and attempts were made so to tamper with their loyalty, that, by an unheard-of crime, a Roman army should swear allegiance to foreigners and pledge themselves to this awful sin by killing or arresting their chief officers. Although many advised Vocula to escape, he thought p111it wise to act boldly, called an assembly, and spoke to this effect.

58 1 "Never have I spoken to you with greater anxiety on your account or with less on my own. For I am glad to hear that my death is determined on, and in the midst of my present misfortunes I await my fate as the end of my sufferings. It is for you that I feel shame and pity, — for you against whom no battle is arrayed, no lines are marshalled. That will be only the law of arms and the just right of enemies. No! It is with your hands that Classicus hopes to fight against the Roman people: it is a Gallic empire and an allegiance to the Gauls that he holds out to you. Even if fortune and courage fail us at the moment, have we completely lost the memories of the past, forgotten how many times Roman legions have preferred to die rather than be driven from their positions? How often have our allies endured the destruction of their cities and allowed themselves to be burned with their wives and children, when the only reward that they could gain in their death was the glory of having kept their faith? At this very moment the legions at Vetera are bearing the hardships of famine and siege unmoved by threats or promises: we have not only our arms, our men, and the splendid fortifications of our camp, but we have grain and supplies sufficient for a war regardless of its length. We had money enough lately even for a donative; and whether you prefer to regard this as given by Vespasian or Vitellius, it was certainly a Roman emperor from whom you received it. If you, the victors in so many wars, if you who have so often put the enemy to flight at Gelduba and Vetera, fear an open battle, that is p113indeed a disgrace; but still you have fortifications, ramparts, and ways of delaying the crisis until troops hurry to your aid from the neighbouring provinces. What if I do not please you! There are other commanders, tribunes, or even some centurion or common soldier on whom you can fall back, that the monstrous news may not spread over the whole world that you are to follow in the train of Civilis and Classicus and support them in their invasion of Italy. When the Germans and Gauls have led you to the walls of Rome, will you then raise your arms against your native land? My soul revolts at the thought of such a crime. Will you mount guard for Tutor, a Treviran? Shall a Batavian give the signal for battle? Will you recruit the ranks of the Germans? What will be the result of your crime when the Roman legions have ranged themselves against you? Will you become deserters for a second time, a second time traitors, and waver back and forth between your new and old allegiance, hated by the gods? I pray and beseech thee, Jupiter, most good and great, to whom we have rendered the honour of so many triumphs during eight hundred and twenty years, and thee, Quirinus, father of Rome, that, if it has not been your pleasure that this camp be kept pure and inviolate under my leadership, at least you will not allow it to be defiled and polluted by a Tutor and a Classicus; give to Roman soldiers either innocence or repentance, prompt and without disaster."

59 1 The troops received this speech with varied feelings of hope, fear, and shame. Vocula had withdrawn and was preparing to end his life, but his freedmen and slaves prevented him from voluntarily p115anticipating the most hideous of deaths. Classicus sent Aemilius Longinus, a deserter from the First legion, and so had Vocula quickly despatched; as for the legates, Herennius and Numisius, he was satisfied with putting them into chains. Then he assumed the insignia of a Roman general and entered the camp. Hardened as he was to every crime, he found not a word to utter beyond stating the oath: those who were present swore allegiance to the "Empire of the Gauls." Vocula's assassin he honoured with promotion to a high rank; on the others he bestowed rewards proportionate to their crimes.

Then Tutor and Classicus divided the conduct of the war between them. Tutor besieged Cologne with a strong force and compelled its inhabitants and all the soldiers on the upper Rhine to take the same oath of allegiance; at Mainz he killed the tribunes and expelled the prefect of the camp when they refused to swear: Classicus ordered the worst of the men who had surrendered to go to the besieged, and offer them pardon if they would accept the actual situation: otherwise there was no hope; they would suffer famine, sword, and the worst extremities. His messengers emphasized their words by citing their own example.

60 1 Loyalty on the one hand, famine on the other, kept the besieged hesitating between honour and disgrace. As they thus wavered, their sources of food, both usual and even unusual, failed them, for they had consumed their beasts of burden, their horses, and all other animals, which, even though unclean and disgusting, necessity forced them to use. Finally, they tore up even shrubs and roots and grasses growing in the crevices of the rocks, p117giving thereby a proof at once of their miseries and of their endurance, until at last they shamefully stained what might have been a splendid reputation by sending a delegation to Civilis and begging for their lives. He refused to hear their appeals until they swore allegiance to the empire of Gaul: then he stipulated for the booty of their camp and sent guards to secure the treasure, the camp followers, and the baggage, and to escort the soldiers as they left their camp empty-handed. When they had proceeded about five miles the German troops suddenly attacked and beset them as they advanced unsuspicious of any danger. The bravest were cut down where they stood, many were slain as they scattered; the rest escaped back to camp. Civilis, it is true, complained of the Germans' action and reproached them for breaking faith shamefully. But whom this was mere pretence on his part or whether he was unable to hold their fury in check is not certainly proved. His troops plundered the camp and set it on fire; the flames consumed all who had survived the battle.

61 1 Civilis, in accordance with a vow such as these barbarians frequently make, had dyed his hair red7 and let it grow long from the time he first took up arms against the Romans, but now that the massacre of the legions was finally accomplished, he cut it short;8 it was also said that he presented his little son with some captives to be targets for the child's arrows and darts. However, he did not bind himself or any Batavian by an oath of allegiance to Gaul, for he relied on the resources of the Germans, and he felt that, if it became necessary to dispute the empire with the Gauls, he would have the p119advantage of his reputation and his superior power. Munius Lupercus, commander of a legion, was sent, among other gifts, to Veleda. This maiden of the tribe of the Bructeri enjoyed extensive authority, according to the ancient German custom, which regards many women as endowed with prophetic powers and, as the superstition grows, attributes divinity to them. At this time Veleda's influence was at its height, since she had foretold the German success and the destruction of the legions.9 But Lupercus was killed on the road. A few of the centurions and tribunes of Gallic birth were reserved as hostages to assure the alliance. The winter quarters of the auxiliary infantry and cavalry and of the legions were pulled down and burned, with the sole exception of those at Mainz and Vindonissa.10

62 1 The Sixteenth legion, with the auxiliary troops that had submitted to Civilis at the same time, was ordered to move from Novaesium to the colony of the Treviri, and the day was fixed before which it was to leave camp. All the intervening time the soldiers spent amid many anxieties: the cowards were terrified by the fate of those who had been massacred at Vetera, the better troops were distressed by a sense of shame and disgrace. They asked themselves: "What kind of a march will this be? Who will lead us? Everything will be at the mercy of those whom we have made masters of life and death." Others had no sense of disgrace and stowed about their persons their money and dearest possessions; some made ready their arms and girded on their weapons as if for battle. While they were thus occupied, the hour for departure arrived; but this proved sadder than their period p121of anticipation; for within the walls their humiliating condition had not been so noticeable; the open ground and the light of day disclosed their shame. The portraits of the emperors had been torn down; their standards were unadorned,11 while the Gauls' ensigns glittered on every side; their line moved in silence, like a long funeral train, led by Claudius Sanctus, who was repulsive in appearance, having had one eye gouged out, and was even weaker in intellect. Their shame was doubled when another legion deserting the camp at Bonn joined their line. Moreover, now that the report that the legions had been captured was spread abroad, all who but yesterday were shuddering at the name of Rome, running from their fields and houses and pouring in from every side, displayed extravagant delight in this unusual spectacle. The squadron of Picentine horse could not endure the joy exhibited by the insulting mob, but, scorning the promises and threats of Sanctus, rode away to Mainz; on the way they happened to meet Longinus, the assassin of Vocula, whom they buried under a shower of weapons and so began the future expiation of their guilt: the legions, without changing their course, pitched camp before the walls of the Treviri.12

63 1 Civilis and Classicus, elated by their success, debated whether they should not turn Cologne over to their armies to plunder. Their natural cruelty and their greed for booty inclined them to favour the destruction of the city: in opposition were the interests of the war and the advantage of a reputation for clemency at this time when they were establishing a new empire; Civilis, moreover, was influenced also by the memory of p123the service done him, when at the beginning of the revolt his son had been arrested in Cologne, but had been treated with honour while in custody. Yet the tribes across the Rhine hated the city for its wealth and rapid growth; and they believed that there could be no end to the war unless this place should be a common home for all the Germans without distinction, or else the city destroyed and the Ubii scattered like the other peoples.13

64 1 So the Tencteri, a tribe separated from the colony by the Rhine,14 sent an embassy with orders to present their demands in an assembly of the people of Cologne. These demands the most violent of the delegates set forth thus: "We give thanks to our common gods and to Mars before all others that you have returned to the body of the German peoples and to the German name, and we congratulate you that at last you are going to be free men among free men; for until to‑day the Romans have closed rivers and lands, and in a fashion heaven itself, to keep us from meeting and conferring together, or else — and this is a severer insult to men born to arms — to make us meet unarmed and almost naked, under guard and paying a price for the privilege.15 But to secure for ever our friendship and alliance, we demand that you take down the walls of your colony, the bulwarks of your slavery, for even wild animals forget their courage if you keep them shut up; we demand that you kill all the Romans in your territories. Liberty and masters are not easily combined together. The p125property of those killed is to be put into the common stock that no one may be able to hide anything or separate his own interest. Both we and you are to have the right to live on both banks, as our fathers once did. Even as Nature has always made the light of day free to all mankind, so she has made all lands open to the brave. Resume the manners and customs of your fathers, cutting off those pleasures which give the Romans more power over their subjects than their arms bestow. A people pure, untainted, forgetting your servitude, you will live the equals of any or will rule others."

65 1 The people of Cologne first took some time to consider the matter, and then, since fear for the future did not allow them to submit to the terms proposed and present circumstances made it impossible to reject them openly, they made the following reply: "The first opportunity of freedom we seized with more eagerness than caution that we might join ourselves with you and the other Germans who are of our own blood. But it is safer to build the walls of the town higher rather than to pull them down at the moment when the Roman armies are concentrating. All the foreigners of Italian or provincial origin within our lands have been destroyed by war or have fled each to his own home. The first settlers,16 established here long ago, have become allied with us by marriage, and to them as well as to their children this is their native city; nor can we think that you are so unjust as to wish us to kill our own parents, brothers, and children. We now suppress the duties and all charges that are burdens on trade: let there be free intercourse between us, but by day and without arms until by p127lapse of time we shall become accustomed to our new and unfamiliar rights. We will have as arbiters Civilis and Veleda, before whom all our agreements shall be ratified." With these proposals they first calmed the Tencteri and then sent a delegation to Civilis and Veleda with gifts which obtained from them everything that the people of Cologne desired; yet the embassy was not allowed to approach Veleda herself and address her directly: they were kept from seeing her to inspire them with more respect. She herself lived in a high tower; one of her relatives, chosen for the purpose, carried to her the questions and brought back her answers, as if he were the messenger of a god.

66 1 Now that the power of Civilis was increased by alliance with the people of Cologne, he decided to try to win over the neighbouring peoples, or, if they refused, to attack them. He had already gained the Sunuci17 and had organized their young men into companies of infantry, when Claudius Labeo offered resistance with a force of the Baetasii, Tungri, and Nervii that he had hastily assembled,18 but he had confidence in his position because he had seized the bridge over the Meuse. The forces engaged in this narrow space without a decisive issue until the Germans swam across the river and attacked Labeo's rear; at the same time Civilis, acting under a bold impulse or in accord with a previous arrangement, rushed to the line of the Tungri and cried in a loud voice: "We did not begin the war with the purpose of making the Batavians and the Treviri lords over the other peoples: such arrogance is far from our minds. Accept alliance with us: I am joining you, whether you wish me to be your leader p129or prefer me to be a common soldier." The mass of the Tungri were moved by this appeal and were in the act of sheathing their swords when Companus and Juvenalis, two of their chief men, surrendered the whole people to him; Labeo escaped before he could be surrounded. Civilis received the submission of the Baetasii and the Nervii as well, and added them to his forces: his power was now great, for the peoples were either terrified or inclined voluntarily to his cause.

67 1 In the meantime Julius Sabinus19 had destroyed all memorials of the alliance with Rome20 and directed that he should be saluted as Caesar; then he hurried a great and unorganized mob of his countrymen against the Sequani,21 a people that touched the boundaries of the Lingones and were faithful to us. The Sequani did not refuse battle; fortune favoured the better cause: the Lingones were routed. Sabinus was as prompt to flee in terror from the battle as he had been over-ready to begin it; and to spread a report of his own death he burned the country house to which he had fled for refuge, and it was generally believed that he had perished there by suicide. But I shall later tell in the proper place by what means and in what hiding-places he prolonged his life for nine years, and I shall also describe the fidelity of his friends and the noble example set by his wife Epponina.22 The success of the Sequani brought the impulse for war to a halt. Gradually the communities came to their senses and began to regard their duty under their treaties; in this movement the Remi took the lead by sending word through the Gallic provinces that envoys should be despatched to debate in their p131common interest whether the Gallic peoples preferred liberty or peace.

68 1 But at Rome all the news from Gaul was exaggerated for the worse and caused Mucianus anxiety lest even distinguished generals — for he had already selected Gallus Annius and Petilius Cerialisº — should not be able to support the whole burden of this great war. He could not leave the city without a head; and he looked with anxiety on the unbridled passions of Domitian, while he suspected, as I have said, Primus Antonius and Varus Arrius.23 Varus, at the head of the praetorian guard, still had control of an armed force: Mucianus removed him, but, to avoid leaving him with no solace, placed him in charge of the supply of grain. And to pacify Domitian's feelings, which were not unfavourable to Varus, he put in command of the praetorians Arrecinus Clemens, who was connected with Vespasian's house by marriage24 and beloved by Domitian, dwelling on the fact that Clemens's father had held the same office with distinction under Gaius Caesar, that his name was popular with the soldiers, and that Clemens himself, although of senatorial rank, was equal to the duties of prefect as well as to those of his own class.25 All the most eminent citizens were enrolled for the expedition, others at their own solicitation. So Domitian and Mucianus were making ready to set out, but with different feelings; Domitian being eager with youthful hope, Mucianus contriving delays to check the other's ardour for fear that, if he once got control of the army, his youthful impetuosity and his evil counsellors would p133make him a peril to peace and war alike. The victorious legions, the Eighth, Eleventh, Thirteenth, and the Twenty-first, which had been of the Vitellian party, as well as the Second, lately enlisted, were led into Gaul, part over the Pennine and Cottian Alps, part over the Graian; the Fourteenth legion was called from Britain, the Sixth and First were summoned from Spain.

So when the news of the approaching army got abroad, the Gallic states that naturally inclined to milder courses assembled among the Remi. A delegation of the Treviri was waiting for them there, led by Julius Valentinus, the most fiery advocate of war. In a studied speech he poured forth all the common charges against great empires, and heaped insults and invectives on the Roman people, being a speaker well fitted to stir up trouble and revolt, and popular with the mass of his hearers for his mad eloquence.

69 1 But Julius Auspex, a noble of the Remi, dwelt on the power of Rome and the blessings of peace; he pointed out that even cowards can begin war, but that it can be prosecuted only at the risk of the bravest, and, moreover, the legions were already upon them; thus he restrained the most prudent of the people by considerations of reverence and loyalty, the younger men by pointing out the danger and arousing their fears: the people praised the spirit of Valentinus, but they followed the advice of Auspex. It is beyond question that the fact that the Treviri and Lingones had stood with Verginius at the time of the revolt of Vindex injured them in the eyes of the Gauls. Many were deterred by the rivalry between the Gallic provinces. "Where," p135they asked, "are we to find a leader for the war?" Where look for orders and the auspices? What shall we choose for our capital if all goes well?" They had not gained the victory, but discord already prevailed; some boasted in insulting fashion of their treaties, some of their wealth and strength or of their ancient origin: in disgust at the prospects of the future, they finally chose the present state. Letters were sent to the Treviri in the name of the Gallic provinces, bidding them to refrain from armed action, and saying pardon could be obtained and that men were ready to intercede for them, if they repented: Valentinus opposed again and succeeded in closing the ears of his fellow tribesmen to these proposals; he was not, however, so active in making actual provision for war as he was assiduous in haranguing the people.

70 1 The result was that neither the Treviri nor the Lingones nor the other rebellious people made efforts at all proportionate to the gravity of the crisis; not even the leaders consulted together, but Civilis ranged the pathless wilds of Belgium in his efforts to capture Claudius Labeo or to drive him out of the country, while Classicus spent most of his time in indolent ease, enjoying his supreme power as if it were already secured; even Tutor made no haste to occupy with troops the Upper Rhine and the passes of the Alps. In the meantime the Twenty-first legion penetrated by way of Vindonissa and Sextilius Felix entered through Raetia with some auxiliary infantry;26 these troops were joined by the squadron of picked horse that had originally been formed by Vitellius but which had later gone over to Vespasian's side. These were commanded p137by Julius Briganticus, the son of a sister of Civilis,27 who was hated by his uncle and who hated his uncle in turn with all the bitter hatred that frequently exists between the closest relatives. Tutor first added to the Treviran troops a fresh levy of Vangiones, Caeracates, and Triboci,28 and then reinforced these with veteran foot and horse, drawn from the legionaries whom he had either corrupted by hope or overcome with fear; these forces first massacred a cohort despatched in advance by Sextilius Felix; then, when the Roman generals and armies began to draw near, they returned to their allegiance by an honourable desertion, followed by the Triboci, Vangiones, and Caeracates. Tutor, accompanied by the Treviri, avoided Mainz and withdrew to Bingium.29 He had confidence in this position, for he had destroyed the bridge across the Nava,30 but he was assailed by some cohorts under Sextilius, whose discovery of a ford exposed him and forced him to flee. This defeat terrified the Treviri, and the common people abandoned their arms and dispersed among the fields: some of the chiefs, in their desire to seem the first to give up war, took refuge in those states that had not abandoned their alliance with Rome. The legions that had been moved from Novaesium and Bonn to the Treviri, as I have stated above, now voluntarily took the oath of allegiance to Vespasian. All this happened during the absence of Valentinus; when he returned, however, he was beside himself and wished to throw everything again into confusion and ruin; whereupon the legions withdrew among the Mediomatrici, an allied people:31 Valentinus and Tutor swept the Treviri again into arms, and murdered the two p139commanders Herennius and Numisius to strengthen the bond of their common crime by diminishing their hope of pardon.

71 1 This was the state of war when Petilius Cerialis reached Mainz. His arrival aroused great hopes; Cerialis was himself eager for battle and better fitted by nature to despise a foe than to guard against him; he fired his soldiers by his fierce words, declaring that he would not delay a moment when he had a chance to engage the enemy. The troops that had been levied throughout Gaul he sent back to their several states, and told them to report that the legions were sufficient to sustain the empire: the allies were to return to their peaceful duties without any anxiety, since, when the Roman arms once undertook a war, that war was virtually ended. This act increased the ready submission of the Gauls; for now that they had recovered their young men they bore the burdens of the tribute more easily, and they were more ready to be obedient when they saw that they were despised. But when Civilis and Classicus heard that Tutor had been defeated, the Treviri cut to pieces, and that their foes were everywhere successful, they became alarmed and hastened to collect their scattered forces; in the meantime they sent many messages to warn Valentinus not to risk a decisive engagement. These circumstances moved Cerialis to prompter action: he despatched some officers to the Mediomatrici to direct the legions against the enemy by a more direct route, while he united the troops at Mainz with all the forces that he had brought with him; after a three days' march he came to Rigodulum,32 which Valentinus had occupied p141with a large force of Treviri. The town was naturally protected by hills or by the Moselle; in addition Valentinus had constructed ditches and stone ramparts. But these fortifications did not deter the Roman general from ordering his infantry to assault or from sending his cavalry up the hill, since he despised his foe, believing that his own men would have more advantage from their courage than the enemy's hastily collected forces could gain from their position. The Roman troops were delayed a little in their ascent while they were exposed to the enemy's missiles: when they came to close quarters, the Treviri were hurled down headlong like a falling building. Moreover, some of the cavalry rode round along the lower hills and captured the noblest of the Belgians, among them their leader Valentinus.

72 1 On the next day Cerialis entered the colony of the Treviri. His soldiers were eager to plunder the town and said "This is Classicus's native city, and Tutor's as well; they are the men whose treason has caused our legions to be besieged and massacred. What monstrous crime had Cremona committed? Yet Cremona was torn from the very bosom of Italy because she delayed the victors one single night. This colony stands on the boundaries of Germany, unharmed, and rejoices in the spoils taken from our armies and in the murder of our commanders.33 The booty may go to the imperial treasury: it is enough for us to set fire to this rebellious colony and to destroy it, for in that way we can compensate for the destruction of so many of our camps." Cerialis feared the disgrace that he would suffer if men were to believe that he imbued his troops with a spirit of licence and cruelty, p143and he therefore checked their passionate anger: and they obeyed him, for now that they had given up civil war, they were more moderate with reference to foreign foes. Their attention was then attracted by the sad aspect which the legions summoned from among the Mediomatrici presented.34 These troops stood there, downcast by the consciousness of their own guilt, their eyes fixed on the ground: when the armies met, there was no exchange of greetings; the soldiers made no answer to those who tried to console or to encourage them; they remained hidden in their tents and avoided the very light of day. It was not so much danger and fear as a sense of their shame and disgrace that paralyzed them, while even the victors were struck dumb. The latter did not dare to speak or make entreaty, but by their tears and silence they continued to ask forgiveness for their fellows, until Cerialis at last quieted them by saying that fate was responsible for all that had resulted from the differences between the soldiers and their commanders or from the treachery of their enemies. He urged them to consider this as the first day of their service and of their allegiance, and he declared that neither the emperor nor he remembered their former misdeeds. Then they were taken into the same camp with the rest, and a proclamation was read in each company forbidding any soldier in quarrel or dispute to taunt a comrade with treason or murder.

73 1 Presently Cerialis called an assembly of the Treviri and Lingones and addressed them thus: "I have never practised oratory and the Roman people has ever asserted its merits by arms: but since words have the greatest weight with you p145and you do not reckon good and evil according to their own nature, but estimate them by the talk of seditious men, I have decided to say a few things which now that the war is over are more useful for you to hear than for me to say. Roman commanders and generals entered your land and the lands of the other Gauls from no desire for gain but because they were invited by your forefathers, who were wearied to death by internal quarrels, while the Germans whom they had invited to help them had enslaved them all, allies and enemies alike. How many battles we have fought against the Cimbri and Teutoni, with what hardships on the part of our armies and with what result we have conducted our wars against the Germans, is perfectly well known. We have occupied the banks of the Rhine not to protect Italy but to prevent a second Ariovistus from gaining the throne of Gaul.35 Do you believe that you are dearer to Civilis and his Batavians or to the peoples across the Rhine than your grandfathers and fathers were to their ancestors? The Germans always have the same reasons for crossing into the Gallic provinces — lust, avarice, and their longing to change their homes, that they may leave behind their swamps and deserts, and become masters of this most fertile soil and of you yourselves: freedom, however, and specious names are their pretexts; but no man has ever been ambitious to enslave another or to win dominion for himself without using those very same words.

74 1 "There were always kings and wars throughout Gaul until you submitted to our laws. Although often provoked by you, the only use we have made of our rights as victors has been to p147impose on you the necessary costs of maintaining peace; for you cannot secure tranquillity among nations without armies, nor maintain armies without pay, nor provide pay without taxes: everything else we have in common. You often command our legions; you rule these and other provinces; we claim no privileges, you suffer no exclusion. You enjoy the advantage of the good emperors equally with us, although you dwell far from the capital: the cruel emperors assail those nearest them. You endure barren years, excessive rains, and all other natural evils; in like manner endure the extravagance or greed of your rulers. There will be vices so long as there are men, but these vices are not perpetual and they are compensated for by the coming of better times: unless perchance you hope that you will enjoy a milder rule if Tutor and Classicus reign over you, or that the taxes required to provide armies to keep out the Germans and Britons will be less than now. For, if the Romans are driven out — which Heaven forbid — what will follow except universal war among all peoples? The good fortune and order of eight hundred years have built up this mighty fabric which cannot be destroyed without overwhelming its destroyers: moreover, you are in the greatest danger, for you possess gold and wealth, which are the chief causes of war. Therefore love and cherish peace and the city wherein we, conquerors and conquered alike, enjoy an equal right: be warned by the lessons of fortune both good and bad not to prefer defiance and ruin to obedience and security." With such words Cerialis quieted and encouraged his hearers, who feared severer measures.

75 1 The Treviri were now being held in submission p149by the victorious army when Civilis and Classicus wrote to Cerialis to this effect: "Vespasian is dead, although the news of his death is held back; Rome and Italy have been exhausted by internal wars; the names of Mucianus and Domitian are empty and carry no weight: if you wish the empire of the Gauls, we are satisfied with the boundaries of our own states; if you prefer to fight, we do not refuse you that alternative either." Cerialis made no reply to Civilis and Classicus; but he sent the messenger who brought the letter and the letter itself to Domitian.

The enemy, whose forces were divided, now approached from every quarter. Many blamed Cerialis for having allowed this concentration of troops when he might have cut them off in detail. The Roman army constructed a ditch and palisade around their camp, which they had rashly occupied up to this time in spite of its unprotected condition.

76 1 Among the Germans there was a clash of diverse opinions. Civilis urged that they should wait for the peoples from beyond the Rhine, who would so terrify the Romans that their strength would break and collapse. "As for the Gauls," said he, "what are they but booty for the victors? And yet the Belgians, their only real strength, are openly on our side or wish our success." Tutor maintained that delay improved the condition of the Romans, for their armies were coming from every quarter. "One legion," he said, "has been brought from Britain; others have been summoned from Spain, or are coming from Italy; these are no hastily levied troops, but a veteran and seasoned army. The Germans, on whom we place our hopes, are p151never obedient to orders and directions, but always act according to their own caprice; as for money and gifts, the only things by which they can be won, the Romans have more than we, and no man is so bent on war as not to prefer quiet to danger, if he get the same reward. Whereas if we engage at once, Cerialis has no legions except those made up of the remnants of the army in Germany, and these have been bound by treaties to the Gallic states. As for the mere fact that, contrary their own expectations, they lately routed the undisciplined force of Valentinus, that only feeds the rash spirit of troops and general alike: they will dare a second time and will fall into the hands not of an inexperienced youth, more concerned with words and speeches than with steel and arms, but into the power of a Civilis and a Classicus. When our enemies see these leaders, their souls will be once more possessed with terror and with the memories of their flight, hunger, and the many times that they have been captured when their lives were at our mercy. Nor are the Treviri or Lingones restrained by any affection: they will resume their arms as soon as their fright has left them." Classicus ended these differences of opinion by approving Tutor's views, on which they at once acted.

77 1 The centre of their line was assigned to the Ubii and Lingones; on the right wing were the Batavian cohorts, on the left the Bructeri and the Tencteri. These rushed forward, some by the hills, others between the road and the Moselle, so rapidly that Cerialis was in his chamber and bed — for he had not passed the night in camp — when at the same moment he received the report that his p153troops were engaged and were being beaten. He kept on abusing the messengers for their alarm until the whole disaster was before his eyes: the enemy had broken into the legions' camp, had routed the cavalry, and had occupied the middle of the bridge over the Moselle, which connects the remoter quarters with the colony. Undismayed in this crisis, Cerialis stopped the fugitives with his own hand, and, although quite unprotected, exposed himself to the enemy's fire; then by his good fortune and rash courage, aided by the bravest of his troops who rushed to his assistance, he recovered the bridge and held it with a picked force. Afterwards he returned to the camp, where he saw the companies of those legions that had been captured at Novaesium and Bonn wandering aimlessly about, with few soldiers supporting the standards, and the eagles almost surrounded by the enemy. Flaming with indignation he cried: "It is not Flaccus or Vocula that you are now deserting: there is no treachery here; nor have I need for excuse save that I rashly believed that, forgetting your pledge to the Gauls, you had remembered your oath of allegiance to Rome. I shall be numbered with the Numisii and Herennii, so that all your commanders may have perished by the hands of their soldiers or of the enemy. Go, report to Vespasian or, since they are nearer, to Civilis and Classicus that you have abandoned your general on the field of battle: yet there will come legions that will not suffer me to be unavenged or you unpunished."

78 1 All this was true, and the same reproofs were heaped on them by the tribunes and the prefects. The troops drew up in cohorts p155and maniples, for indeed they could not form an extended line since their foes were everywhere, and as the battle was being fought within their ramparts they were also hindered by their tents and baggage. Tutor and Classicus and Civilis, each at his post, spurred on their followers to battle, urging the Gauls to fight for liberty, the Batavians for glory, and the Germans for booty. Everything favoured the enemy until the Twenty-first legion, having more room than the rest, concentrated its entire strength and so resisted the enemy's attack and presently drove him back. Yet it was not without divine aid that with a sudden change of spirit the victorious enemy took to flight. They said themselves that they were smitten with terror by the sight of those cohorts which, though dislodged by their first assault, formed again on the ridges and seemed to them to be fresh reinforcements. But the fact is that the victorious barbarians were checked by a disgraceful struggle to secure booty which began among them so that they forgot their foes. Thus Cerialis, having almost ruined the situation by his carelessness, restored it by his resolution; and, following up his success, he captured and destroyed the enemy's camp on that same day.

79 1 The troops, however, were not allowed long repose. The people of Cologne begged for aid and offered to give up the wife and sister of Civilis and the daughter of Classicus, who had been left as pledges of fidelity to the alliance. In the meantime they had killed the Germans who were scattered among their homes. This gave them cause to fear and made reasonable their appeals for help before the enemy recovered his strength and p157armed for some new venture or for revenge. For in fact Civilis had marched in the direction of Cologne; he was yet formidable since the most warlike of his cohorts was still unharmed, which, made up of Chauci and Frisii, was stationed at Tolbiacum36 on the borders of the territory of the people of Cologne: he was, however, turned aside by the depressing news that this cohort had been destroyed by a stratagem of the inhabitants of Cologne, who, after stupefying the Germans with an elaborate dinner and abundant wine, had closed the doors, set fire to the building, and burned them all; at the same moment Cerialis hurried up by forced marches. Civilis had been beset also by another fear: he was anxious lest the Fourteenth legion, supported by the fleet from Britain, might injure the Batavians along their coast. But Fabius Priscus, leading his legion inland, directed it against the Nervii and Tungri, and accepted the surrender of these two states: as for the fleet, it was actually attacked by the Canninefates and most of the ships were sunk or captured. The same Canninefates routed a great force of the Nervii who had voluntarily risen to fight for the Romans. Classicus also engaged successfully with some cavalry which Cerialis had despatched to Novaesium: and these reverses, though small, were frequent enough to injure the prestige of the Romans' recent victory.37


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Tacitus resumes from chap. xxxvii, at January 70 A.D.

2 The prefect of the bank of the Rhine was apparently in command of the troops that policed the border. Cf. chap. xxvi above: dispositae per ripam stationes, and chap. lxiv below.

3 This statement refers to the capture of Rome by the Flavian forces in December, 69. Vid. III.82‑85.

4 Chap. xviii.

5 Living between the Meuse and the Scheldt.

6 About the mouth of the Scheldt.

7 Cf. Pliny, N.H. XXVIII.191, and Martial, VIII.33.20.

8 Cf. Tac. Germ. 31.

9 Later Veleda was captured and brought to Rome. Cf. Tac. Germ. 8; and Statius, Silvae I.4.90.

10 Windisch.

11 Portrait medallions of the emperors were regularly attached to the shafts of the standards and eagles. Cf. I.41.

12 At the modern Trier.

13 The Ubii were naturally suspected by their neighbours in Germany, for, although of German origin, they had long since adopted Roman customs, developed a prosperous urban life, and grown wealthy and great. Cf. chap. xxviii above.

14 Cf. chap. xxi.

15 The colony being defended by a wall, admission to the town was subject to police regulations and a tax. Cf. the following chapter.

16 The veterans settled here in 50 A.D. Cf. Ann. XII.27.

17 Neighbours of the Ubii, to the west between the Meuse and the Roer.

18 Cf. chap. lvi.

19 Cf. chap. lv.

20 That is, the bronze records recording the terms of alliance.

21 Living around the modern Besançon.

22 The portion of the Histories in which Tacitus must have related the story is now lost, but the tale is given by Dio Cassius, LXVI.16, and Plutarch, Amat. 25. Sabinus and his wife lived for nine years in a cave where two sons were born. Later they were discovered and put to death.

23 Mucianus had good reason to be anxious: Domitian was unstable and ambitious, and there was cause to doubt the fidelity of Primus Antonius and Varus Arrius (Cf. III.52 f., 78; IV.39). By making Arrecinus Clemens prefect of the praetorians, Mucianus disarmed Domitian and his possible supporter Varus, and at the same time he secured the fidelity of the praetorian guard to Vespasian.

24 Vespasian's first wife had been a sister of Clemens.

25 From Augustus's day, the prefect of the praetorian guard had regularly been of equestrian rank.

26 Cf. III.5.

27 Cf. II.22.

28 The Vangiones lived in the district of Worms; the Triboci in Lower Alsace; while the Caeracates are otherwise unknown.

29 Bingen.

30 The Nahe.

31 Living about Metz.

32 Riol.

33 They had in mind Hordeonius, Vocula, Herennius, and Numisius.

34 These legions were the First and the Sixteenth. Cf. chaps. xxv, xxxvii, lix, lxii, and lxx above.

35 The ambition of Ariovistus had been checked by Julius Caesar during his first campaign in Gaul, 58 B.C.

36 Zülpich.

37 The account of this revolt is resumed at V.14.


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 4 Feb 09