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Tacitus: Annals Book 1 [60]

60. This language roused not only the Cherusci but the neighbouring tribes and drew to their side Inguiomerus, the uncle of Arminius, who had long been respected by the Romans. This increased Caesar's alarm. That the war might not burst in all its fury on one point, he sent Caecina through the Bructeri to the river Amisia with forty Roman cohorts to distract the enemy, while the cavalry was led by its commander Pedo by the territories of the Frisii. Germanicus himself put four legions on shipboard and conveyed them through the lakes, and the infantry, cavalry, and fleet met simultaneously at the river already mentioned. The Chauci, on promising aid, were associated with us in military fellowship. Lucius Stertinius was despatched by Germanicus with a flying column and routed the Bructeri as they were burning their possessions, and amid the carnage and plunder, found the eagle of the nineteenth legion which had been lost with Varus. The troops were then marched to the furthest frontier of the Bructeri, and all the country between the rivers Amisia and Luppia was ravaged, not far from the forest of Teutoburgium where the remains of Varus and his legions were said to lie unburied.

60. Conciti per haec non modo Cherusci, sed conterminae gentes, tractusque in partis Inguiomerus Arminii patruus, vetere apud Romanos auctoritate; unde maior Caesari metus. et ne bellum mole una ingrueret Caecinam cum quadraginta cohortibus Romanis distrahendo hosti per Bructeros ad flumen Amisiam mittit, equitem Pedo praefectus finibus Frisiorum ducit. ipse inpositas navibus quattuor legiones per lacus vexit; simulque pedes eques classis apud praedictum amnem convenere. Chauci cum auxilia pollicerentur, in commilitium adsciti sunt. Bructeros sua urentis expedita cum manu L Stertinius missu Germanici fudit; interque caedem et praedam repperit unde vicesimae legionis aquilam cum Varo amissam. ductum inde agmen ad ultimos Bructerorum, quantumque Amisiam et Lupiam amnis inter vastatum, haud procul Teutoburgiensi saltu in quo reliquiae Vari legionumque insepultae dicebantur.

61. Germanicus upon this was seized with an eager longing to pay the last honour to those soldiers and their general, while the whole army present was moved to compassion by the thought of their kinsfolk and friends, and, indeed, of the calamities of wars and the lot of mankind. Having sent on Caecina in advance to reconnoitre the obscure forest-passes, and to raise bridges and causeways over watery swamps and treacherous plains, they visited the mournful scenes, with their horrible sights and associations. Varus's first camp with its wide circumference and the measurements of its central space clearly indicated the handiwork of three legions. Further on, the partially fallen rampart and the shallow fosse suggested the inference that it was a shattered remnant of the army which had there taken up a position. In the centre of the field were the whitening bones of men, as they had fled, or stood their ground, strewn everywhere or piled in heaps. Near, lay fragments of weapons and limbs of horses, and also human heads, prominently nailed to trunks of trees. In the adjacent groves were the barbarous altars, on which they had immolated tribunes and first-rank centurions. Some survivors of the disaster who had escaped from the battle or from captivity, described how this was the spot where the officers fell, how yonder the eagles were captured, where Varus was pierced by his first wound, where too by the stroke of his own ill-starred hand he found for himself death. They pointed out too the raised ground from which Arminius had harangued his army, the number of gibbets for the captives, the pits for the living, and how in his exultation he insulted the standards and eagles.

61. Igitur cupido Caesarem invadit solvendi suprema militibus ducique, permoto ad miserationem omni qui aderat exercitu ob propinquos, amicos, denique ob casus bellorum et sortem hominum. praemisso Caecina ut occulta saltuum scrutaretur pontesque et aggeres umido paludum et fallacibus campis inponeret, incedunt maestos locos visuque ac memoria deformis. prima Vari castra lato ambitu et dimensis principiis trium legionum manus ostentabant; dein semiruto vallo, humili fossa accisae iam reliquiae consedisse intellegebantur: medio campi albentia ossa, ut fugerant, ut restiterant, disiecta vel aggerata. adiacebant fragmina telorum equorumque artus, simul truncis arborum antefixa ora. Iucis propinquis barbarae arae, apud quas tribunos ac primorum ordinum centuriones mactaverant. et cladis eius superstites, pugnam aut vincula elapsi, referebant hic cecidisse legatos, illic raptas aquilas; primum ubi vulnus Varo adactum, ubi infelici dextera et suo ictu mortem invenerit; quo tribunali contionatus Arminius, quot patibula captivis, quae scrobes, utque signis et aquilis per superbiam inluserit.

62. And so the Roman army now on the spot, six years after the disaster, in grief and anger, began to bury the bones of the three legions, not a soldier knowing whether he was interring the relics of a relative or a stranger, but looking on all as kinsfolk and of their own blood, while their wrath rose higher than ever against the foe. In raising the barrow Caesar laid the first sod, rendering thus a most welcome honour to the dead, and sharing also in the sorrow of those present. This Tiberius did not approve, either interpreting unfavourably every act of Germanicus, or because he thought that the spectacle of the slain and unburied made the army slow to fight and more afraid of the enemy, and that a general invested with the augurate and its very ancient ceremonies ought not to have polluted himself with funeral rites.

62. Igitur Romanus qui aderat exercitus sextum post: cladis annum trium legionum ossa, nullo noscente alienas reliquias an suorum humo tegeret, omnis ut coniunctos, ut consanguineos, aucta in hostem ira, maesti simul et infensi condebant. primum extruendo tumulo caespitem Caesar posuit, gratissimo munere in defunctos et praesentibus doloris socius. quod Tiberio haud probatum, seu cuncta Germanici in deterius trahenti, sive exercitum imagine caesorum insepultorumque tardatum ad proelia et formidolosiorem hostium credebat; neque imperatorem auguratu et vetustissimis caerimoniis praeditum adtrectare feralia debuisse.

63. Germanicus, however, pursued Arminius as he fell back into trackless wilds, and as soon as he had the opportunity, ordered his cavalry to sally forth and scour the plains occupied by the enemy. Arminius having bidden his men to concentrate themselves and keep close to the woods, suddenly wheeled round, and soon gave those whom he had concealed in the forest passes the signal to rush to the attack. Thereupon our cavalry was thrown into disorder by this new force, and some cohorts in reserve were sent, which, broken by the shock of flying troops, increased the panic. They were being pushed into a swamp, well known to the victorious assailants, perilous to men unacquainted with it, when Caesar led forth his legions in battle array. This struck terror into the enemy and gave confidence to our men, and they separated without advantage to either. Soon afterwards Germanicus led back his army to the Amisia, taking his legions by the fleet, as he had brought them up. Part of the cavalry was ordered to make for the Rhine along the sea-coast. Caecina, who commanded a division of his own, was advised, though he was returning by a route which he knew, to pass Long Bridges with all possible speed. This was a narrow road amid vast swamps, which had formerly been constructed by Lucius Domitius; on every side were quagmires of thick clinging mud, or perilous with streams. Around were woods on a gradual slope, which Arminius now completely occupied, as soon as by a short route and quick march he had outstripped troops heavily laden with baggage and arms. As Caecina was in doubt how he could possibly replace bridges which were ruinous from age, and at the same time hold back the enemy, he resolved to encamp on the spot, that some might begin the repair and others the attack.

63. Sed Germanicus cedentem in avia Arminium secutus, ubi primum copia fuit, evehi equites campumque quem hostis insederat eripi iubet. Arminius colligi suos et propinquare silvis monitos vertit repente: mox signum prorumpendi dedit iis quos per saltus occultaverat. tunc nova acie turbatus eques, missaeque subsidiariae cohortes et fugientium agmine impulsae auxerant consternationem; trudebanturque in paludem gnaram vincentibus, iniquam nesciis, ni Caesar productas legiones instruxisset: inde hostibus terror, fiducia militi; et manibus aequis abscessum. ,mox reducto ad Amisiam exercitu legiones classe, ut ad vexerat, reportat; pars equitum litore Oceani petere Rhenum iussa; Caecina, qui suum militem ducebat, monitus, quamquam notis itineribus regrederetur, pontes longos quam maturrime superare. angustus is trames vastas inter paludes et quondam a L. Domitio aggeratus, cetera limosa, tenacia gravi caeno aut rivis incerta erant; circum silvae paulatim adclives, quas tum Arminius inplevit, compendiis viarum et cito agmine onustum sarcinis armisque militem cum antevenisset. Caecinae dubitanti quonam modo ruptos vetustate pontes reponeret simulque propulsaret hostem, castra metari in loco placuit, ut opus et alii proelium inciperent.

64. The barbarians attempted to break through the outposts and to throw themselves on the engineering parties, which they harassed, pacing round them and continually charging them. There was a confused din from the men at work and the combatants. Everything alike was unfavourable to the Romans, the place with its deep swamps, insecure to the foot and slippery as one advanced, limbs burdened with coats of mail, and the impossibility of aiming their javelins amid the water. The Cherusci, on the other hand, were familiar with fighting in fens; they had huge frames, and lances long enough to inflict wounds even at a distance. Night at last released the legions, which were now wavering, from a disastrous engagement. The Germans whom success rendered unwearied, without even then taking any rest, turned all the streams which rose from the slopes of the surrounding hills into the lands beneath. The ground being thus flooded and the completed portion of our works submerged, the soldiers' labour was doubled. This was Caecina's fortieth campaign as a subordinate or a commander, and, with such experience of success and peril, he was perfectly fearless. As he thought over future possibilities, he could devise no plan but to keep the enemy within the woods, till the wounded and the more encumbered troops were in advance. For between the hills and the swamps there stretched a plain which would admit of an extended line. The legions had their assigned places, the fifth on the right wing, the twenty-first on the left, the men of the first to lead the van, the twentieth to repel pursuers.

64. Barbari perfringere stationes seque inferre munitoribus nisi lacessunt, circumgrediuntur, occursant: miscetur operantium bellantiumque clamor. et cuncta pariter Romanis adversa, locus uligine profunda, idem ad gradum instabilis, procedentibus lubricus, corpora gravia loricis; neque librare pila inter undas poterant. contra Cheruscis sueta apud paludes proelia, procera membra, hastae ingentes ad vulnera facienda quamvis procul. nox demum inclinantis iam legiones adversae pugnae exemit. Germani ob prospera indefessi, ne tum quidem sumpta quiete, quantum aquarum circum surgentibus iugis oritur vertere in subiecta, mersaque humo et obruto quod effectum operis duplicatus militi labor. quadragesimum id stipendium Caecina parendi aut imperitandi habebat, secundarum ambiguarumque rerum sciens eoque interritus. igitur futura volvens non aliud repperit quam ut hostem silvis coerceret, donec saucii quantumque gravioris agminis anteirent; nam medio montium et paludum porrigebatur planities, quae tenuem aciem pateretur. deliguntur legiones quinta dextro lateri, unetvicesima in laevum, primani ducendum ad agmen, vicesimanus adversum secuturos.

65. It was a restless night for different reasons, the barbarians in their festivity filling the valleys under the hills and the echoing glens with merry song or savage shouts, while in the Roman camp were flickering fires, broken exclamations, and the men lay scattered along the intrenchments or wandered from tent to tent, wakeful rather than watchful. A ghastly dream appalled the general. He seemed to see Quintilius Varus, covered with blood, rising out of the swamps, and to hear him, as it were, calling to him, but he did not, as he imagined, obey the call; he even repelled his hand, as he stretched it over him. At daybreak the legions, posted on the wings, from panic or perversity, deserted their position and hastily occupied a plain beyond the morass. Yet Arminius, though free to attack, did not at the moment rush out on them. But when the baggage was clogged in the mud and in the fosses, the soldiers around it in disorder, the array of the standards in confusion, every one in selfish haste and all ears deaf to the word of command he ordered the Germans to charge, exclaiming again and again, "Behold a Varus and legions once more entangled in Varus's fate." As he spoke, he cut through the column with some picked men, inflicting wounds chiefly on the horses. Staggering in their blood on the slippery marsh, they shook off their riders, driving hither and thither all in their way, and trampling on the fallen. The struggle was hottest round the eagles, which could neither be carried in the face of the storm of missiles, nor planted in the miry soil. Caecina, while he was keeping up the battle, fell from his horse, which was pierced under him, and was being hemmed in, when the first legion threw itself in the way. The greed of the foe helped him, for they left the slaughter to secure the spoil, and the legions, towards evening, struggled on to open and firm ground. Nor did this end their miseries. Entrenchments had to be thrown up, materials sought for earthworks, while the army had lost to a great extent their implements for digging earth and cutting turf. There were no tents for the rank and file, no comforts for the wounded. As they shared their food, soiled by mire or blood, they bewailed the darkness with its awful omen, and the one day which yet remained to so many thousand men.

65. Nox per diversa inquies, cum barbari festis epulis, laeto cantu aut truci sonore subiecta vallium ac resultantis saltus complerent, apud Romanos invalidi ignes, interruptae voces, atque ipsi passim adiacerent vallo, oberrarent tentoriis, insomnes magis quam pervigiles. ducemque terruit dira quies: nam Quintilium Varum sanguine oblitum et paludibus emersum cernere et audire visus est velut vocantem, non tamen obsecutus et manum intendentis reppulisse coepta luce missae in latera legiones, metu an contumacia, locum deseruere, capto propere campo umentia ultra. neque tamen Arminius quamquam libero incursu statim prorupit: sed ut haesere caeno fossisque impedimenta, turbati circum milites, incertus signorum ordo, utque tali in tempore sibi quisque properus et lentae adversum imperia aures, inrumpere Germanos iubet, clamitans 'en Varus eodemque iterum fato vinctae legiones!' simul haec et cum delectis scindit agmen equisque maxime vulnera ingerit. illi sanguine suo et lubrico paludum lapsantes excussis rectoribus disicere obvios, proterere iacentis. plurimus circa aquilas labor, quae neque ferri adversum ingruentia tela neque figi limosa humo poterant. Caecina dum sustentat aciem, suffosso equo delapsus circumveniebatur, ni prima legio sese opposuisset. iuvit hostium aviditas, omissa caede praedam sectantium, enisaeque legiones vesperascente die in aperta et solida. neque is miseriarum finis. struendum vallum, petendus agger, amissa magna ex parte per quae egeritur humus aut exciditur caespes; non tentoria manipulis, non fomenta sauciis; infectos caeno aut cruore cibos dividentes funestas tenebras et tot hominum milibus unum iam reliquum diem lamentabantur.

66. It chanced that a horse, which had broken its halter and wandered wildly in fright at the uproar, overthrew some men against whom it dashed. Thence arose such a panic, from the belief that the Germans had burst into the camp, that all rushed to the gates. Of these the decuman gate was the point chiefly sought, as it was furthest from the enemy and safer for flight. Caecina, having ascertained that the alarm was groundless, yet being unable to stop or stay the soldiers by authority or entreaties or even by force, threw himself to the earth in the gateway, and at last by an appeal to their pity, as they would have had to pass over the body of their commander, closed the way. At the same moment the tribunes and the centurions convinced them that it was a false alarm.

66. Forte equus abruptis vinculis vagus et clamore territus quosdam occurrentium obturbavit. tanta inde consternatio inrupisse Germanos credentium ut cuncti ruerent ad portas, quarum decumana maxime petebatur, aversa hosti et fugientibus tutior. Caecina comperto vanam esse formidinem, cum tamen neque auctoritate neque precibus, ne manu quidem obsistere aut retinere militem quiret, proiectus in limine portae miseratione demum, quia per corpus legati eundum erat, clausit viam: simul tribuni et centuriones falsum pavorem esse docuerunt.

67. Having then assembled them at his headquarters, and ordered them to hear his words in silence, he reminded them of the urgency of the crisis. "Their safety," he said, "lay in their arms, which they must, however, use with discretion, and they must remain within the entrenchments, till the enemy approached closer, in the hope of storming them; then, there must be a general sortie; by that sortie the Rhine might be reached. Whereas if they fled, more forests, deeper swamps, and a savage foe awaited them; but if they were victorious, glory and renown would be theirs." He dwelt on all that was dear to them at home, all that testified to their honour in the camp, without any allusion to disaster. Next he handed over the horses, beginning with his own, of the officers and tribunes, to the bravest fighters in the army, quite impartially, that these first, and then the infantry, might charge the enemy.

67. Tunc contractos in principia iussosque dicta cum silentio accipere temporis ac necessitatis monet. unam in armis salutem, sed ea consilio temperanda manendumque intra vallum, donec expugnandi hostis spe propius succederent; mox undique erumpendum: illa eruptione ad Rhenum perveniri. quod si fugerent, pluris silvas, profundas magis paludes, saevitiam hostium superesse; at victoribus decus gloriam. quae domi cara, quae in castris honesta, memorat; reticuit de adversis. equos dehinc, orsus a suis, legatorum tribunorumque nulla ambitione fortissimo cuique bellatori tradit, ut hi, mox pedes in hostem invaderent.

68. There was as much restlessness in the German host with its hopes, its eager longings, and the conflicting opinions of its chiefs. Arminius advised that they should allow the Romans to quit their position, and, when they had quitted it, again surprise them in swampy and intricate ground. Inguiomerus, with fiercer counsels, heartily welcome to barbarians, was for beleaguering the entrenchment in armed array, as to storm them would, he said, be easy, and there would be more prisoners and the booty unspoilt. So at daybreak they trampled in the fosses, flung hurdles into them, seized the upper part of the breastwork, where the troops were thinly distributed and seemingly paralysed by fear. When they were fairly within the fortifications, the signal was given to the cohorts, and the horns and trumpets sounded. Instantly, with a shout and sudden rush, our men threw themselves on the German rear, with taunts, that here were no woods or swamps, but that they were on equal ground, with equal chances. The sound of trumpets, the gleam of arms, which were so unexpected, burst with all the greater effect on the enemy, thinking only, as they were, of the easy destruction of a few half-armed men, and they were struck down, as unprepared for a reverse as they had been elated by success. Arminius and Inguiomerus fled from the battle, the first unhurt, the other severely wounded. Their followers were slaughtered, as long as our fury and the light of day lasted. It was not till night that the legions returned, and though more wounds and the same want of provisions distressed them, yet they found strength, healing, sustenance, everything indeed, in their victory.

68. Haud minus inquies Cermanus spe, cupidine et diversis ducum sententiis agebat, Arminio sinerent egredi egressosque rursum per umida et inpedita circumvenirent suadente, atrociora Inguiomero et laeta barbaris, ut vallum armis ambirent: promptam expugnationem, plures captivos, incorruptam praedam fore. igitur orta die proruunt fossas, iniciunt cratis, summa valli prensant, raro super milite et quasi ob metum defixo. postquam haesere munimentis, datur cohortibus signum cornuaque ac tubae concinuere. exim clamore et impetu tergis Germanorum circumfunduntur, exprobrantes non hic silvas nec paludes, sed aequis locis aequos deos. hosti facile excidium et paucos ac semermos cogitanti sonus tubarum, fulgor armorum, quanto inopina tanto maiora offunduntur, cadebantque, ut rebus secundis avidi, ita adversis incauti. Arminius integer, Inguiomerus post grave vulnus pugnam deseruere: vulgus trucidatum est, donec ira et dies permansit. nocte demum reversae legiones, quamvis plus vulnerum, eadem ciborum egestas fatigaret, vim sanitatem copias, cuncta in victoria habuere.

69. Meanwhile a rumour had spread that our army was cut off, and that a furious German host was marching on Gaul. And had not Agrippina prevented the bridge over the Rhine from being destroyed, some in their cowardice would have dared that base act. A woman of heroic spirit, she assumed during those days the duties of a general, and distributed clothes or medicine among the soldiers, as they were destitute or wounded. According to Caius Plinius, the historian of the German wars, she stood at the extremity of the bridge, and bestowed praise and thanks on the returning legions. This made a deep impression on the mind of Tiberius. "Such zeal," he thought, "could not be guileless; it was not against a foreign foe that she was thus courting the soldiers. Generals had nothing left them when a woman went among the companies, attended the standards, ventured on bribery, as though it showed but slight ambition to parade her son in a common soldier's uniform, and wish him to be called Caesar Caligula. Agrippina had now more power with the armies than officers, than generals. A woman had quelled a mutiny which the sovereign's name could not check." All this was inflamed and aggravated by Sejanus, who, with his thorough comprehension of the character of Tiberius, sowed for a distant future hatreds which the emperor might treasure up and might exhibit when fully matured.

69. Penaserat interim circumventi exercitus fama et infesto Germanorum agmine Gallias peti, ac ni Agrippina inpositum Rheno pontem solvi prohibuisset, erant qui id fiagitium formidine auderent. sed femina ingens animi munia ducis per eos dies induit, militibusque, ut quis inops aut saucius, vestem et fomenta dilargita est. tradit C. Plinius Germanicorum bellorum scriptor, stetisse apud principium ponti laudes et grates reversis legionibus habentem. id Tiberii animum altius penetravit: non enim simplicis eas curas, nec adversus externos [studia] militum quaeri. nihil relictum imperatoribus, ubi femina manipulos intervisat, signa adeat, largitionem temptet, tamquam parum ambitiose filium ducis gregali habitu circumferat Caesaremque Caligulam appellari velit. potiorem iam apud exercitus Agrippinam quam legatos, quam duces; conpressam a muliere seditionem, cui nomen principis obsistere non qui verit. accendebat haec onerabatque Seianus, peritia morum Tiberii odia in longum iaciens, quae reconderet auctaque promeret.

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