Annals of Tacitus Book I: XXXI-LIV

XXXI. On nearly the same days, for the same reasons, the legions of Germanica were thrown into uproar, the greater their number, the greater their violence, and with great hope that Germanicus Caesar would not be able to suffer the imperium of another, and would give himself to his legions to obtain by force the whole as his. There were two armies by the Rhine river: that with the name upper was under the legate Caius Silius, Aulus Caecina had care of the lower. Governance of the highest matter was in the hands of Germanicus, at that time intent upon taking the census of Gaul. But for those whom Silius governed, they looked to the chance of foreign revolt with wavering mind. The soldier of the lower army slipped into frenzy, with the beginning arising from soldiers of the twenty-first and the fifth, and the first and even the twentieth drawn in: for they were kept in the same summer-camp in the boundaries of the Ubii for leisure or for light duties. Therefore, once the end of Augustus was heard by the native multitude, recently drawn by a levy in the city, accustomed to licentiousness, intolerant of labour, they filled the rustic minds of the rest: that the time had come when they might demand that the discharge of veterans be timely; for the youths, larger stipends; for the whole group, a limit of their miseries; and they avenged themselves on the savagery of the centurions. Nor was this a single man, like Percennius among the Pannonican legions, nor in the hearing of agitated soldiers, of those with other, more powerful armies in their sight; but rather, voices of many mouths spoke of sedition: that the Roman matter rested in his own hand; that by their victories, the Roman state was increased; that in his own name the Imperators were received.

XXXII. Nor did a legate block their path: for truly the blind rage of the majority had freed them from any constancy. Suddenly the maddened men fell upon the centurions with their swords bared: that most ancient fuel for soldierly hatreds and the origin of savage behaviour. They beat the men they struck down with whips, sixty on each, as they equalled the number of centurions: they threw them out, mangled and torn and some of them dead, before the ramparts or into the Rhine river. Septimius, after he had fled for safety to the general’s platform and had thrown himself to the feet of Caecina, there he was incessantly solicited for until he was given up to destruction. Cassius Chaerea, who by the by, obtained remembrance in posterity for the murder of Gaius Caesar, then young and with a fierce spirit, cleared a path between the arms and those in his way with his iron. No longer did the tribune, nor the prefect of the camp keep the law. Sentinals, watch-posts, and in any other way the present circumstance imposed, they apportioned themselves. This, for those who augured more deeply the soldierly minds, was a sure sign of a great and implacable movement, because neither were they dispersed, nor (did they act) by the instigation of a few, but they were inflamed just as much as they were composed, with such equanimity and constancy, you would have thought them to be under command.

XXXIII. Meanwhile, to Germanicus, taking the census in Gaul,was brought word that Augustus had departed. He had taken the man’s grand-daughter, Agrippina, in marriage and had several children by her, he himself born to Drusus, brother of Tiberius, and grandson of Augusta, but uneasy in the hidden hatreds against him of his uncle and grandmother, the reasons for which were more bitter for being unfair. For indeed, the memory of Drusus was great among the Roman people, and it was believed, if he had taken possession of the state, he would have restored liberty; whence the same favour and hope was upon Germanicus. For there was in the young man an inner nature for civility, a marvellous affability and different from the stern visage, the discourse of Tiberius, arrogant and secretive. Womanly displeasures fell upon Agrippina by the stepmotherly incitements of Livia, and Agrippina was somewhat more excitable, except that by her chastity and her love for her marital bond, insofar as possible, she turned her untamed spirit to the good.

XXXIV. But Germanicus, by howevermuch closer to the highest hope, by that much more he stove to endeavour on behalf of Tiberius. Upon the neighbouring Sequani and the cities of Belgium he put an oath to his words. When he heard about the tumult of the legions, he set out, hurrying away, and held meetings outside the camp, their eyes cast down to the earth as if penitent. After he entered the rampart, the dissonant complaint began to be heard. And certain men, taking his hand in the pretence of eagerly kissing it, put his fingers in their mouth so he could touch their gums, empty of teeth. Others showed him their limbs, bent by old age. The assembly standing around him, because it seemed mixed, he bid to withdraw to their companies: they, that it was better thus to hear his reply; he, that the banners be brought forth so that he might, at least, discern the cohorts: they complied sluggishly. Then he began his spiel with the highest veneration of Augustus; he turned to the victories and triumphs of Tiberius, celebrating with particular praise the finest which he had won with those legions. He extolled the unity of Italy, the loyalty of Gaul; not until here was there uproar or discord. All this was heard in silence or scant murmur.

XXXV. Just as he touched on the mutiny, asking where soldierly sobriety was, where the dignity of long-standing discipline, whither the tribunes, for what had they driven out the centurions, as a whole they bared their bodies, they made as reproach the scars of their wounds, marks of whips; with undistinguishable cries the cost of military exemptions, the small size of their stipend, the rigour of their work and by characteristic titles they found fault with the rampart, the ditches, the collecting of fodder, building material, timber, and whatever else they sought whether by necessity or against leisure of the camp. The fiercest clamour arose from the veterans, who counting their thirty or more tours, begged of him that he cure them of their weariness, and not death in the same toils, but an end of such use of military service, and not destitute retirement. There were even those who demanded back the money left as legacy by the divine Augustus, with all good omens to Germanicus; and if he preferred the imperium, they boasted to be at the ready. Then, truly, as if contaminated with their crime, he leapt headlong from the general’s platform. They set their arms against his withdrawal, threatening lest he retreat; but he, yelling that he’d rather die than divest of his loyalty, he snatched his iron from his flank, bore it up and tried to bring it down to his breast, except those nearest held back by force his grabbed right hand. The furthest part of the assembly was crowded close about itself and, though it is scarcely credible to say, certain individuals exhorted that he strike; and a soldier by the name of Calusidius, put up his drawn sword, with the addition that it was sharper. This seemed savage and of an evil quality, even in their ravings, and there was a space for which Caesar could be taken by his friends to his tent.

XXXVI. There, the remedy was considered; for indeed, it was announced that legates had been made ready who would draw the upper army to the same cause; that a town of the Ubii was intended for destruction, and that hands infected with plunder for the rape of Gaul were about to burst forth. Knowing of the Roman rebellion increased the fear, for should the river-bank be neglected, the enemy would invade: but should auxiliaries and allies be armed against legions while withdrawing, civil war would be undertaken. Severity was perilous, generosity disgraceful: whether nothing or everything was conceded to the soldier, the commonwealth was in jeopardy. Therefore, after turning over their plans it was resolved that a letter in the name of the Prince would be written: that discharge would be given to those who had served for twenty tours, those who had done sixteen were to be discharged conditionally and retained under banner of the rest, exempt except for repelling the enemy, the legacies they had sought would be released and doubled.

XXXVII. The soldier understood that these were invented for the occasion and at once pressed his demand. That discharge was hastened by the tribunes, the largesse deferred to their respective winter camps. The fifth and twenty-first did not withdraw until the contracted money was paid out from the travel fund of Caesar himself and his friends. The legate, Caecina, led back the first and twentieth legions to the city of the Ubii in sick shame, since the purse robbed from the Imperator was conveyed among the standards and among the eagles. Germanicus set out for the upper army and the second and thirteenth and sixteenth legions, he put to their oath without delay. The fourteenth wavered a little: the money and discharge was offered without any demanding whatsoever.

XXXVIII. But among the Chaucii, agitators of the standard-bearer of the dissenting legions began a rebellion of the garrisons, and by the prompt punishment of two soldiers, it was shortly repressed. Manius Ennius, prefect of the camp, had ordered it, more as a good example than a concession to law. Afterward, when the movement rose up, he fled and was discovered, and then from his defenceless hiding-spot, he borrowed protection from audacity: that it was not their prefect, but their leader, Germanicus, and the Imperator, Tiberius, who was violated by these things. At the same time, since those who stood in his way were frightened, he turned the captured standard to the river, and if anyone left the troop, he yelled, he would held as a deserter, and he led them back to their winter quarters, troubled and daring nothing.

XXXIX. Meanwhile legates from the Senate approached Germanicus at an altar of the Ubii upon his return. Two legions were wintering there, the first and the twentieth, and some veterans sent soon afterward under their banner. Alarmed and maddened by their conscience, a fear entered the men that they had come by order of the patricians, who would make to no effect what they had extorted by rebellion. And, as it is custom for rabble, no matter if they are mistaken, to make someone answerable, they charged that Munatius Plancus, the leader of the legates, who had held a consulship, was author of the resolution of the Senate; and at night, at the hour of rest, they began to press a demand for the banner seated in the dwelling of Germanicus, and when a throng had formed at his door, they broke open the gates; Caesar, dragged from his room, they forced by fear, under the threat of death, to hand over the banner. The roaming men soon came upon the legates, blocking their way on the road, for they had gone out after Germanicus when the uproar was heard. They heaped up invective, they intended murder, for Plances above all, whom honour held fast from flight; there was no other auxiliary in his peril than the camp of the first legion. There he embraced the standard and eagle and he was kept safe by religious observance, and except that the standard-bearer, Calpurnius, had fended off the worst violence, rare even among enemies, a legate of the Roman people in a Roman camp would have defiled a high altar of the gods with his own blood. At length it was dawn, and after the leader and soldier and the deeds were known, Germanicus entered the camp, ordered that Plancus be led to him received him the general’s platform. Then, rebuking their destructive frenzy, revived not by the anger of soldiers, but of the gods, he revealed why the legates had come; the right of the legates and of Plancus himself had been gravely and undeservedly struck, and at the same time, the legion had undertaken how much of shameful deed, he lamented eloquently, and from the assembly more thundered at than quieted, he sent out the legates with a guard of auxiliary cavalry.

XL. During that fear, everyone accused Germanicus because he did not go on to the upper army, where there was obedience and aid against the rebellious men: there was fault enough and more in the discharge and money and gentle resolutions. Even if he considered his own life of little worth, why his small son, why his pregnant wife among raving men and violators of every human right? Those, at least, let him restore to their grandfather and to the State. He was long delayed: his wife rejected it, for she invoked that she was sprung from the divine Augustus, and was not ignoble in facing dangers, but in the end he embraced her waist and their shared son, and with much weeping, he compelled her to go. She left the army miserable and effeminate, the fleeing wife of the leader, bearing her little son in her belly, the wives of his friends weeping around her, who were also being taken away, and there was no less sadness among those who remained.

XLI. Thus Caesar did not flourish nor was he in his own camp, but it was rather as if he was in a conquered city, the sad countenance, the weeping and breast-beating even drew the eyes and ears of soldiers: they came forward from their war tents. What is this doleful sound? Why such sadness? Illustrious women, no centurion for safety, no soldier, nothing of the wife of a general nor her accustomed escort: she went forth to the Treviri and to foreign bond. Hence shame and compassion for the memory of her father, Agrippa, and her grandfather Augustus, and her father-in-law, Drusus, and for her own distinction, her fertility, her exceptional modesty; and now the infant, born in the camp, raised in the war-tents of the legion, whom they called by the soldierly title, Caligula, since he would often wear that covering on his feet to win the attention of the rabble. But nothing bent them equal to their hatred against the Treviri: they opposed it, they pleaded that she return, that she stay, some ran out to Agrippina, but most returned to Germanicus. And, since he was fresh with sadness and anger, to those pressed around him, he began thus:

XLII. No more dear to me are my wife and son than father and country, but him, his own majesty, the Roman imperium, and the rest of the army defend him. My wife and children, whom for the sake of your glory I would gladly offer to destruction, I am sending them away, now, far from your frenzying, so that whatever thing is impending from your crime, it will be purified with my blood alone, and neither the death of the great-grandson of Augustus, nor the murder of the daughter-in-law of Tiberius shall make you guilty of more harm. For, during the past few days, what has not been ventured or remains undefiled by you? What name do I give to this company? Shall I call you soldiers, you who have blockaded the son of your general with rampart and arms? Or citizens, by whom the authority of the Senate was driven out? You have even broken the right of enemies and sacraments of legates and the divine law of nations. The divine Julius checked the rebellion of his army with a single word, by calling them Quirites [civilians] who rejected his oath: the divine Augustus with his countenance and aspect the legions at Actium: we are not yet as those same men, thus, sprung from those, if indeed the soldier of Hispania and Syria rejects him, it has been such a shock and indignity. The first and twentieth legions, you accepted your standards from Tiberius, thou art all allies of many battles, all made greater by spoils, do you offer distinguished gratitude to your leader? Shall I hence bear word to my father, who hears that all is well from the other provinces? That his own recruits, his own veterans are not sated, neither by discharge nor by money: such is this, murdered centurions, ejected tribunes, imprisoned legates, the river, the camp, infected with blood, and me, drawing precarious breath among hostile men.

XLIII. Indeed, the first day of the assembly, that iron which I was ready to transfix through my breast, why did you wrest it away, my improvident friends? Better and more loving was he who offered a sword. Had I fallen, surely, I would no longer be conscious of all the shameful passions of my army; you would have chosen a leader, who, although he would have permitted my death to go unpunished, he would at least have avenged that of Varus and his three legions. For the gods would not permit that the Belgae, although they offered, to have that honour and celebrity, to have given aid to the Roman name, to have checked the people of Germania. Oh divine Augustus, your spirit taken to heaven, Oh father Drusus, your likeness, and the remembrance of you with those same soldiers, whom modesty and glory now enter into, from these men cleanse the blemish and turn their angers to destruction for enemies. And you, of whom I now see other faces, other hearts, if legates to the Senate, obedience to the Imperator, if my wife and son to me you would restore, then withdraw from contagion, separate yourselves from the troubled, and firmly this will be penitance, this the fetter of your oath.

XLIV. Suppliant to these and confessing that they were reproached for truth, they begged that he punish the guilty, that he give pardon to their failings, and that he lead them against the enemy: that his wife be summoned back, that the foster-child of the legions return and not be handed over as hostage to the Gauls. The return of Agrippina he dispensed with for reason of her imminent child-bearing and winter: his son would be returned: they themselves could pursue the rest. They rushed to and fro, changed men and each most seditious man, they dragged them bound to the legate of the first legion, Caius Caetronius, who exercised judgement and penalty for each individual in this manner. The legions stood as an assembly with their swords bared: the accused was shown on a raised platform by the tribune: if they shouted him as guilty, given headlong, he was cut to pieces: and they rejoiced in the murders just as if they could absolve themselves; nor did Caesar hold them back, at no time by his own command had the savagery of the deed and the hatred been in the power of the same men. The veterans, following this example were scarcely much later sent to Raetia, in the pretense of defending the province against threatening Suebi, but really so that they could be separated from a camp made grim, at this point no less by the severity of remedy than the remembrance of crime. Thence was the election of centurions. A man, summoned by the general, stated his name, rank, homeland, number of tours, what he had done promptly in battles, and with whom they were, and his military rewards. If the tribunes, if the legion approved his diligence and innocence, they preserved his rank; where there was greed or cruelty, they objected by consensus, he was released from military service.

XLV. Thus quieted for the present, scarcely less difficulty remained for the wild spirit of the fifth and twenty-first legions, wintering at the sixtieth milestone (the name for the place is Old-camp). For they first began the rebellion: every most atrocious crime had come to pass at their hands; neither frightened by the punishment of their fellow-soldiers nor changed by penance did they check their angers. And so Caesar prepared to lead arms, army, allies down to the Rhine; if the imperium was rejected, he would contend it with war.

XLVI. But for Rome, where it was not yet known what end there was at Illyrium, nor the movement of the legions of Germanicus heard, the agitated state cast blame on Tiberius because, while the patricians and the plebs were weak and unarmed, he made sport by a contrived delay, meanwhile the soldier was at a variance, and would not be able to be restrained by the authority of two youths, not yet matured. That he himself ought to go and impose his imperial majesty against those who would yield when they saw the Prince, with long experience, and the same, the highest man of severity and munificence. Whereas Augustus, in weary old age, had often been able to come and go to Germania: was Tiberius, vigorous in his years, to sit at Senate, mocking the words of the patricians? He had well-enough seen to urban servitude: apply poultices to the military spirit that they might wish to endure peace.

XLVII. Tiberius was unmoved against these arguments and affixed not to leave off the head of state, nor to give himself and the public weal to a fall. For indeed, many and diverse concerns vexed him: the army at Germania was stronger, that at Pannonia nearer; the former depended on the support of Gaul, the latter threatened Italy: whom therefore should he give preference? And do so such that the neglected one would not be inflamed by the affront. But rather, to be approached equally by his sons, without violation to majesty, for which there was greater reverence at a distance. At the same time, it was allowed to young men that certain things be sent back to their father, and should Germanicus or Drusus be opposed, it was possible to be tamed or subdued by himself: what other reserve if they spurned the Imperator? As for the rest, as if he now and already intended to go, he chose companions, he got together supplies, he prepared ships: soon he pleaded winter or by various matters he first fooled foreseeing men, then the rabble, the provinces longest of all.

XLVIII. But Germanicus, although an army had been assembled and prepared for vengeance against the rebels, he reckoned for giving them some time, in case, given the recent example, they had deliberated amongst themselves; he sent out a letter to Caecina that he was coming with a strong hand, and, unless they imposed punishment upon the wicked beforehand, he would make use of indiscriminate slaughter. This Caecina read out in secret to the eagle-bearers and the standard bearers, and he exhorted that part of the camp which was by far upright, and that they might be excepted the whole of infamy and themselves from death: for in peace, causes and rewards are observed, whereas war would assail to strike down the innocent and guilty alike. And they, testing whom they considered most suitable, after they saw the greater part of the legion in their duty, they established a time concerning the sentence of the legate at which point they fell upon with iron each man most despicable and manifest in sedition. Then, when a signal was given amongst themselves, they rushed into the war-tents, they butchered the men unaware, no-one knowing except those in the know what the start of slaughter and what the end.

XLIX. A different form from all civil arms which had heretofore befallen. Not in battle, not men from opposite camps, but from the same quarters, whom by day fed together, by night kept repose together, they separated in parts, they poured upon spears. Clamour, blood, wounds in the open, reasons in secret; chance ruled the rest. And some of the good were killed, since, once it was understood against whom rage was vented, the worst also seized arms. And neither legate nor tribune was present to govern: license was permitted the rabble, and vengeance, and satiety. Soon Germanicus entered the camp, yelling with more tears that this was not medicine but devastation, he ordered the bodies be cremated.

Then a desire seized their savage spirits to go against the enemy, a propitiary sacrifice for their madness; and in no other way could the shades of their fellow-soldiers be soothed except they receive honest wounds to their impious breasts. Caesar followed the ardor of his soldiers and to the connected bridge he sent across twelve thousand from the legion, twenty-six allied cohorts, eight wings of cavalry, whose conduct had been been unblemished in that rebellion.

L. And not far off, rejoicing Germans were stirring while we were detained, first by a cease-fire due to lost Augustus, then by the discord. But the Roman, with a fast-moving troop, crossed the Caesian forest and the boundary begun by Tiberius; he placed a camp on the boundary, walled at the front and back with rampart, sides barricaded with felled trees. From there he penetrated the shadowed woodland-pasture and considered two paths he might follow, one short and well-used, the other more impeded and longer, and for that, unguarded by enemies. The longer way was chosen and all the rest were hastened. For indeed, the scouts brought word that this was a festive night for the Germans and joyous for a religious feast. Caecina was ordered to lead with readied cohorts and repel any resistance in the woods: the legions followed at short intervals. The night gave aid by bright starlight, and he came to a village of the Marsii, and watchposts were set around, even where they were laid out in their quarters, and on account of the feast, with no fear, no vigils were set out: thus far the whole was scattered by lack of worry nor was there fear of war, nor was there even peace except that by the sluggish and relaxed care among drunken men.

LI. Caesar distributed his eager legions in four wedges by which there would be a wider swath of devastation; He laid waste a space of fifty miles with iron and fire. Neither sex nor age brought compassion: both sacred places and secular, the temple most frequented by those tribes, which they call Tamfana, were levelled to the ground. Without a wound to us, their soldiers, who were half-asleep, unarmed or straggling, fell. That slaughter stirred the Bructeri, Tubantes, Vsipetes, and they occupied the forest through which was the return for the army. This was known to our leader and he advanced along the way and by battle. A part of the cavalry and auxiliary led the cohorts, soon after, the first legion was brought, with the baggage in the middle, men of the twenty-first shut-up the left, of the fifth the right, the twentieth fortified the rear, and after, the rest of the allies. But the enemy, unmoved so long as the troop was spread out through the wood, making middling assault against the flanks and front, rushed against the final men with their entire strength. The light cohorts were thrown into confusion by the packed throngs of Germans, when Caesar, brought to the men of the twentieth, yelled out with a great voice that this was the opportunity to blot out their rebellion: they proceeded, they made haste to turn their blame into glory. They inflamed their spirits and with a single assault they made a break of the enemy, they cut through to an opening: meanwhile the first troops of the force came out of the woods and fortified the camp. From there the way was quieted, and placing their faith in the recent, the soldier forgot the earlier and was put to his winter quarters.

LII. When these were announced, they moved Tiberius to joy and to worry. He rejoiced that the rebellion was put down, but because he had procured the goodwill of the soldiers by bequeathing monies and hastened discharge, and by bellicose glory for Germanicus, he was pained. Nevertheless he reported the things done to the Senate and commemorated much concerning his virtue, more adorned with words in form than he might be believed to feel within. With fewer words, he praised Drusus and the end of the uprising in Illyrium, but more earnestly, with trustworthy speech. And everything which Germanicus conceded, he preserved also among the Pannonican army.

LIII. In the same year, Julia met her final year, once shut in by her father Augustus for immodesty at the island, Pandateria, and soon afterward at a town of the Regini, who neighbour the strait of Sicily. She had been married to Tiberius when the Caesars, Gaius and Lucius, were flowering, and she had spurned him as a poor match; there was no other reason, so intimate to Tiberius, why he withdrew to Rhodes. When he obtained the imperium, she was banished, infamous, and after Postumus Agrippa was killed, she was bereft of all hope, and he destroyed her with want of necessities and a long sickness, he would reckon that her murder was forgotten by the long duration of her exile. Equally, he had reason for cruelty against Sempronius Gracchus, who belonged to a notable family, clever by nature and perversely eloquent, and had disgraced the same Julia during her marriage to Marcus Agrippa. And this was not the end of his caprice: after she was given to Tiberius, the wilful adulterer used to inflame her with obstinacy and animosity against her husband; and a letter which Julia sent to her father, Augustus, filled with jeremiad against Tiberius, was believed to have been composed by Gracchus. He was therefore removed to Cercina, an island in the African sea, and he bore his exile for fourteen years. When soldiers were sent to kill him, they found him on a promontory of the shore, expecting nothing joyful. When they arrived, he requested a brief pause so that he could give by letter his final wishes to his wife, Alliaria, and then offered his neck to his killers, a self-possession in death far from unworthy to the Sempronian name which he had dishonoured in life. Some people say that those soldiers were not sent from Rome but by Lucius Asprenas on behalf of the consul of Africa, on the order of Tiberius, who had hoped in vain that the reputation of the murder could be turned against Asprenas

LIV. The same year received new sacred rites by the addition of the priesthood of the fellows of the Augustan college, just as Titus Tatius had once instituted the fellows of the Titian college to keep the rites of the Sabines. By lottery, twenty-one were drawn from the leading citizens: Tiberius, Drusus, Claudius, and Germanicus were also added. Discord from some strife among stage-actors threw the Augustan games into confusion when they were first begun. Augustus had indulged in this sport while submitting to Maecenas, who was lavished in the love of Bathyllus; nor did he have an aversion to these sorts of pursuits, and considered it civic to be mixed in the pleasures of the multitude. Tiberius had a different character: but he did not yet dare to turn the people, held so agreeably through all the years, toward harsher measures.

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