Annals of Tacitus Book I: LV-LXIX

LV. In the consulships of Drusus Caesar and C. Norbanus for Germanicus, a triumph was decreed although the war continued; because although it was for summer, he was preparing with utmost might, at the beginning of spring he had anticipated it by a sudden strike against the Chatti. For a hope had come that the enemy might be divided in Arminius and Segestes, distinguished either by treachery against or by fidelity. Arminus was an insurgent of Germania, Segestes had often revealed that rebellion was being prepared and especially at the last banquet, after which it had come to arms, and he recommended to Varus that he fetter him and Arminius and the remaining chiefs: the plebs would dare nothing once the chiefs were removed; and they themselves would have time in which to determine guilt of innocence. But Varus, by chance and strength, fell to Arminius: Segestes, however, by the consensus of his tribe, was drawn into war and discord remained, with hatreds increasing in private, because Arminius had seized his daughter, betrothed to another: the son-in-law was the envy of his hostile father-in-law. What were bonds of affection among united men, were incitements of anger among inimical.

LVI. Therefore Germanicus handed over to Caecina four legions, five-thousand auxiliaries, and hastily-raised troops of Germans who dwelled on this side of the Rhine; he himself led the same amount of legions, twice the number of allies, and after he set up a citadel over the remains of his father’s fortification on mount Taunus, he took his readied army against the Chattos, with Lucius Apronius left behind for the defense of the roads and rivers. For by drought (rare under this sky) and by middling rivers the journey had hastened without obstruction, heavy rains and an increase of rivers were feared for going back. But he came unexpected by the Chatti, such that any weak due to age or sex were immediately captured or cut down. The youth crossed the river Adrana by swimming, and they fended off the Romans starting for the bridge. Then those repelled by arrows and seige-works, striving in vain for terms of peace, when certain of them fled to Germanicus for refuge, those who were left abandoned their districts and villages and were scattered in the forests. After he burned Mattius, Caesar ravaged the open fields, and turned to the Rhine, the enemy not daring to harass the rear of the departing men, which was his custom, as often as he departed by cunning rather than through fear. And the Cheruci had a mind to give aid to the Chatti, but Caecina frightened them hither and yon, bearing arms; and he kept back those Marsi that dared to accost him in successful battle.

LVII. Not long afterward, legates came from Segestes, asking for aid against the violence of his countrymen by whom he was blockaded, for Arminius was more powerful among them because he advised war: for to barbarians, howevermuch one was open to daring, by that much he was considered more trustworthy and capable to set affairs in motion. Segestes had added his son to the legates, Segimundus by name: but the youth hesitated due to conscience. For indeed, in the year in which Germania had revolted, he was appointed as a priest at the altar of the Ubii, but had rent his vestment, and fled to the rebels. Led, however, to the hope of Roman clemency, he conveyed the mandate of his father and kindly received, he was sent for safe-keeping to the Gallic shore. His value to Germanicus was to turn the troop, embattled in a blockade, and Segestes was rescued with a great band of his neighbours and clients. Among them were noble women, among whom the wife of Arminius, that same daughter of Segestes, with the mind of her husband than of her parent, neither conquered in tears nor submissive in voice; with her hands pressed to her belly, attending her pregnant womb. And the spoils from the fall of Varus were brought, and more from those who were coming for surrender at that time was given as plunder: meanwhile Segestes himself was there, large to behold and fearless in the remembrance of good fellowship.

LVIII. His words were to this effect: “This is not, for me, the first day of loyalty and constancy with respect to the Roman people. From that citizenship which I was bestowed by the divine Augustus, I chose friends and enemies according to your utility, not in hatred for my homeland (for indeed traitors are hated even by those whom they give preference), in truth because the same thing profits Romans and Germans and I esteem peace over war. Therefore, the abductor of my daughter, the violator of your treaty, Arminius, I made him answerable to Varus, who presided over your army at the time. Put off by the sluggishness of your leader, since there was so little protection in the law, I entreatied that he fetter myself and Arminius and our accomplices: that night is a witness, would that it were better my last! What followed can be lamented more than defended: thereupon, thrown in fetters with Arminius and his faction I endured my shackles with patience. And here I give your troops first preference, the long-standing over the new, the quieted to the turbulent, not for profit but so that I might absolve myself of perfidy, and also be a meet procurer for the tribe of Germans, if they should prefer penitence over ruin. For the youth and error of my son I beg indulgence: my daughter, I grant, was brought here by force. It will be yours to consider whether she should prevail because she has conceived by Arminius or because she was born of me.” Caesar, in response for clemency, promised safety for his children and kinsfolkm and for him an abode in an older province. He led the army back and took the title of general by the authority of Tiberius. The wife of Arminius gave birth to offspring of the male sex: the boy was raised at Ravenna, where he would soon be struck with insult, I shall relate in time.

LIX. The report was spread of Segestes, captured and kindly delivered, as for whom war was waged unwilling or desiring, thus was the news received with hope or with sadness. His captured wife, the fruit of her womb subjected to slavery, drove Arsinium beyond his innate violence, drove him mad, and he flew through the Cherusci, urgently seeking arms against Segestes, arms against Caesar. Nor was he temperate with reproaches: a father so distinguished, a commander great, an army so strong, whose so many hands had carried off one mere girl. Three legions and just as many legates had fallen before him; For he did not wage war by betrayal, against pregnant women, but openly, against armed men. Hitherto to be seen in the forests of the Germans, the Roman standards, which he had suspended for the gods of his father. Let Segestes inhabit the conquered bank, let him restore to his son a priesthood of men. The Germans would never sufficiently excuse that they had seen the rods, the axe, and the toga between the Albis and the Rhine. For other tribes, due to ignorance of the Roman imperium, supplications were untried, tributes unknown; which, since they had cast these away, and Augustus, the one consecrated among the powers, Tiberius, the chosen one, had withdrawn without effect, let them dread not the unskilled recruit, nor the seditious army. If they preferred the ancient, their parents, the fatherland over masters and new colonies, let them better follow Arminius, leader of glory and liberty than Segestes, of disgraceful slavery.

LX. Not only were the Cherusci stirred by this, but also neighbouring tribes, and Inguiomerus, uncle of Arminius, was drawn to their factions, in long-standing authority among the Romans; whence greater fear to Caesar. And so that war would not break out in a single great rush, he sent Caecina with forty Roman cohorts through the Bructeri to the Amisia river, to distract the enemy, the prefect, Pedo, led the cavalry to the borders of the Frisians. He himself conveyed four legions assigned to ships along the lakes; meanwhile, infantry, cavalry, fleets convened at a pre-appointed river. The Chauci, since they had promised auxiliaries, were received in soldierly fellowship. Lucius Stertinius, with a band at the dispatch of Germanicus, scattered the Bructeri, burning their own supplies; and among the slaughter and spoils he discovered the eagle of the nineteenth legion, lost with Varus. A troop was led against the furthest of the Bructeri, and howevermuch lay between the Amisia and Lupia rivers was laid waste, a scarce distance from the Teutoburgien wood, in which the unburied remains of the legions of Varus were said to be.

LXI. Therefore a desire entered Caesar of paying final respects to the soldiers and their leader, with everyone moved to sympathy who was present in the army, for relatives, friends, and at length for a downfall of wars and the lot of men. After Caecina was sent ahead, that he might scout anything hidden in the woods and place bridges and ramparts over the dampness of fens and treacherous fields, they advanced on places made gloomy by the sight and memory of disgrace. First, the camp of Varus, with wide perimeter, and measured out headquarters, showed the hands of three legions; then by half-ruined rampart, by shallow ditch, the remains already disordered were understood to have settled: whitening bones in the middle of the camp, as they had fled, as they had resisted, were scattered or heaped up. Fragments of weapons lay alongside the joints of horses, while skulls were nailed to the trunks of trees. In nearby groves, barbarian altars, among which they had immolated tribunes and centurions of the first ranks. And survivors of this disaster, escaped from battle or fetters, reported here that the legates had fallen, there that the eagles were taken; there the first wound was struck upon Varus, there by his unhappy right hand and he found death by his own thrust; from which tribunal Arminius had declared, how many gibbets for captives, which ditches, and that he had mocked the eagles and standards in his arrogance.

LXII. Therefore, the Roman army that was there, on the sixth year after the disaster, buried the bones of the three legions in the earth, though no-one could tell remains of others from their own, they stowed away all as united, as joined by blood, their anger against the enemy increased, saddened even while enraged. Caesar laid the first sod to be heaped on the tomb, a sharer with the present grief for those men who discharged the duty fullest of grace. This was scarcely commended by Tiberius, whether he believed everything of Germanicus drawing to the worse, or that the army was hindered by the image of fallen and unburied men, put toward dread of their enemies in battle; nor should the commander, bestowed with an augurate and the most ancient religious rites, have handled funerary things.

LXIII. But Germanicus followed Arminius, who was withdrawing to trackless places, where there was first opportunity, he ordered the cavalry to be brought and the camp where the enemy had settled to be taken. Arminius suddenly turned his own men, warned to be gathered and to hasten from the woods: then he gave the sign to break forth to those whom he had hidden in the woods. Then the cavalry was disrupted with a new battle-line, and reserve cohorts were sent, and driven off by a band of fleeing men, they only increased dismay; they were pushed toward a swamp known to the conquerers, unfavourable to the unwary, except that Caesar arrayed the legions he had led out. Then terror to the enemies, confidence to the soldier; and a withdrawal on even terms. Then, once he led the army back to the Amisia, he carried back the legions by fleet just as he had conveyed them; part of the cavalry were ordered to seek the Rhine at the shore of the Ocean; Caecina, who was leading his own soldiery, was advised, although he had withdrawn by known ways, to surmount the long bridges as quickly as possible. This was a narrow footpath through desolate swamps, once piled up by Lucius Domitius, the rest was muddy, with persistent, unpleasant filth or made uncertain by streams. Around the woods, sloping up by degrees, which Arminius then filled in, by short-cuts of the roads and quickly with a band, he had anticipated the soldier laden with burdens and arms. With Caecina doubted whither and how he might restore bridges broken by old age and at the same time drive back the enemy, it was resolved to mark out a camp in place, so they might begin work and others battle.

LXIV. The barbarians (tried) to break through the pickets, and to bring themselves against the workers, but they only provokes, moved about, charged: the clamour of those working and those making war mingled. In a like manner, everything was turned against the Romans, the place with endless damp, likewise unsteady to the step, slippery for marching men, their bodies heavy with their breastplates; nor were they able to brandish their spears in the waters. Conversely, battle in marshes was accustomed to the Cherusci, their long limbs, great spears suited for making wounds whatever the distance. Night finally delivered the legions, now falling back, from their adverse fight. The Germans, for their good fortune, were unwearied, such that the night was not even then taken up in repose, as many waters as sprung ever-flowing around the rising slopes, they turned to the low-lying places, and with the earth submerged and the work which had been completed covered over, the labour for the soldier was doubled. Caecina was in his fortieth tour of serving and commanding, and knowledgeable in both favourable and uncertain circumstanced, he was unfrightened by this. Therefore, thinking on the future, he perceived nothing but that he might enclose the enemy in the woods, until the wounded and as many of the more heavily-laden troops went ahead; for even ground extended out amidst mountains and swamps, which was open to a thin battle-line. Legions were selected, the fifth for the right side, the nineteenth to the left, the first for leading the troop, the twentieth against any who followed.

LXV. The night, for varying reasons, was unquiet. While the barbarians filled the low-lying parts of the valleys with festive feasts, joyous song or harsh din, and resounding through the woods, among the Romans weak fires, halting voices, and they flung themselves scattered by the rampart, wandered about their tents, unsleeping more than vigilant. And an ominous repose frightened their leader: he seemed to perceive and to hear Quintilius Varus, smeared with blood, emerged from the swamps, as if calling him, but he did not comply and he rejected the hand extended forth. At first light, the legions sent to the flanks, by fear or obstinacy, had deserted their post, with a field quickly captured beyond the damp. Nor yet did Arminius immediately burst forth although chance for assault was open: but rather when they were stuck in the mud, and their equipment in the ditches, when the soldiers were harassed all around, the line of standards was unclear, and when, as on occasions of this sort, each man was quick for himself, his ears inattentive to commands, then did he order the Germans to break through, yelling, “Lo! Another Varus and his legions, bound again to the same fate!”Meanwhile and with picked men, he split and his troop inflicted wounds especially to the horses. These, slipping in their own blood and the slipperiness of the swamp, with their riders thrown off, threw asunder the men in their way, trampled the thrown. There was greater toil surrounding the eagles, which were not possible to be carried against the assailing spears, nor fixed in the muddy earth. Caecina, so far, preserved the line, slipped from his pierced horse and was surrounded, except the first legion set itself in the way. The greed of the enemies gave aid, slaughter neglected for the eager pursuit of spoils, the legions forced their way out in the waning day to open and solid ground. Nor was this the end of their miseries. The rampart was to be piled up, the materials sought, although much was lost from which soil was carried or sod cut; no tents for the companies, no poultices for the wounded; divvying up food dirtied with mud or gore, they lamented mournful shadows and that a single remained for how many thousands of men.

LXVII. By chance, a horse, its tie broken, roaming and frightened by the clamor, threw into confusion certain of those it came upon. The alarm of those who believed the Germans had attacked was so great that everyone rushed for the gates, of which the tenth especially was sought, away from the enemy and safer for the fleeing men. Although Caecina had ascertained that the fear was baseless, yet since neither with authority nor with pleas, nor even by his hand was he able to oppose or restrain the soldier, at last, having thrown himself before the threshold of the gate, the way was blocked by compassion, since they would have to go over the body of their legate: meanwhile tribunes and centurions showed that it was a false alarm.

LXVII. Then, assembled in the headquarters and ordered to receive his words in silence, he advised concerning the occasion and the necessities. Their sole safety was in arms, but all must be governed by this counsel and they must remain within the ramparts, until the enemies advanced closer in hope of capturing them; and then they must break out from all sides; they would go through from that eruption to the Rhine. For if they fled now, more woods, more deep swamps, the savagery of the enemies would remain. But for victors, honor and glory. He recalled what was dear to the home, what was honorable in the camps; he kept silent concerning their opponents. He handed over the horses of the legates and the tribunes, beginning with his own, to each bravest warrior, so that these men would fall upon the enemy, then the infantry.

LXVIII. The German held scarcely less unrest, by hope, by desire, and by the diverse opinions of their leaders, with Arminius arguing that they permit them to go forth and they would again circle round those who left through the damp and the obstacles, and Inguiomerus, more dreadful and joyful to the barbarians, that they surround the rampart with arms: there would be an easy assault, many captives, unspoiled spoils. Thus when the day rose, they overturned the ditches, they flung on to the hurdles, they seized the highest point of the rampart, with few soldiers above and as if transfixed by fear. After that they were clinging to the fortifications, the signal was given to the cohorts, and the horns and trumpets sounded together. Next, with clamor and assault, they poured out around the rear of the Germans, howling that there were no woods or swamps here, but fair ground and fair gods. Destruction came easily to the enemy, who thought them few and badly equipped, the sound of war-trumpets, the gleam of arms, by howevermuch they were unexpected, by that much more they were poured out, and they fell, as greedy in favourable circumstances, thus incautious in adverse. Arminius deserted the fight unscathed, Inguiomerus after a serious wound: the crowd was cut to pieces for as long as anger and the day endured. At long last the legions were turned back by night, however many more wounds, vexed by the same poverty of food, the troop counted their strength as health, and everything in victory.

LXIX. Meanwhile, a report went around of the army surrounded and that Gaul was sought by a hostile band of Germans, and except that Agrippina prevented a bridge over the Rhine from being destroyed, there were those who would have, in their dread, dared this rash act. But a woman, great in spirit, decked herself in the offices of a leader during those days, and for soldiers, accordingly to the impoverished or the wounded, she lavished vestment and poultices. Caius Plinius, a writer of the wars of Germanica, transmits that she stood at the foot of the bridge holding praises and thanksgiving for the returning legions. This deeply penetrated the spirit of Tiberius: and thanksgiving for the returning legions. This deeply penetrated the spirit of Tiberius: omerus amrtt for victors, honor and for he thought that her cares were not simple, nor was zeal of soldiers sought against foreign men; that nothing remained for commanders where a woman looked after companies, approached standards, tampered with largesse, as if it were not enough canvassing that she carried around the son of their leader in the habit of the common folk, and she wished him to be called Caesar Caligula. That Agrippina was already more powerful among the armies than legates, than leaders; Mutiny had been suppressed by a female, for which the name of the Prince had not been able to oppose. Sejanus inflamed and freighted, by experience with the character of Tiberius, laying in his hatreds to the length of time, which he stowed away and earned back increase.

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