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Tacitus: History Book 5 [20]

20. The war was so far from being at an end, that Civilis in one day attacked on four points the positions of the auxiliary infantry and cavalry and of the legions, assailing the tenth legion at Arenacum, the second at Batavodurum, and the camp of the auxiliary infantry and cavalry at Grinnes and Vada, and so dividing his forces, that he himself, his sister's son Verax, Classicus, and Tutor, led each his own division. They were not confident of accomplishing all these objects, but they hoped that, if they made many ventures, fortune would favour them on some one point. Besides, Cerialis was not cautious, and might easily be intercepted, as the multiplicity of tidings hurried him from place to place. The force, which had to attack the tenth legion, thinking it a hard matter to storm a legionary encampment, surprised some troops, who had gone out, and were busy felling timber, killed the prefect of the camp, five centurions of the first rank, and a few soldiers; the rest found shelter behind the fortifications. At Batavodurum the German troops tried to break down the bridge partly built. Night terminated an indecisive conflict.

20. Tantumque belli superfuit ut praesidia cohortium alarum legionum uno die Civilis quadripertito invaserit, decimam legionem Arenaci, secundam Batavoduri et Grinnes Vadamque, cohortium alarumque castra, ita divisis copiis ut ipse et Verax, sorore eius genitus, Classicusque ac Tutor suam quisque manum traherent, nec omnia patrandi fiducia, sed multa ausis aliqua in parte fortunam adfore: simul Cerialem neque satis cautum et pluribus nuntiis huc illuc cursantem posse medio intercipi. Quibus obvenerant castra decimanorum, obpugnationem legionis arduam rati egressum militem et caedendis materiis operatum turbavere, occiso praefecto castrorum et quinque primoribus centurionum paucisque militibus: ceteri se munimentis defendere. Interim Germanorum manus Batavoduri interrumpere inchoatum pontem nitebantur: ambiguum proelium nox diremit.

21. There was greater danger at Grinnes and Vada. Civilis attacked Vada, Classicus Grinnes, and they could not be checked, for our bravest men had fallen, among them Briganticus, who commanded a squadron of cavalry, and of whose loyalty to the Roman cause and enmity to his uncle Civilis I have already spoken. But when Cerialis came up with a picked body of cavalry, the fortune of the day changed, and the Germans were driven headlong into the river. Civilis, who was recognised while seeking to stop his flying troops, became the mark of many missiles, left his horse, and swam across the river. Verax escaped in the same way. Some light vessels were brought up, and carried off Tutor and Classicus. Even on this occasion the Roman fleet was not present at the engagement, though orders had been given to that effect. Fear kept them away, and their crews were dispersed about other military duties. Cerialis in fact allowed too little time for executing his commands; he was hasty in his plans, though eminently successful in their results. Fortune helped him even where skill had failed, and so both the general and his army became less careful about discipline. A few days after this he escaped the peril of actual capture, but not without great disgrace.

21. Plus discriminis apud Grinnes Vadamque. Vadam Civilis, Grinnes Classicus obpugnabant: nec sisti poterant interfecto fortissimo quoque, in quis Briganticus praefectus alae ceciderat, quem fidum Romanis et Civili avunculo infensum diximus. Sed ubi Cerialis cum delecta equitum manu subvenit, versa fortuna; praecipites Germani in amnem aguntur. Civilis dum fugientis retentat, agnitus petitusque telis relicto equo transnatavit; idem Veraci effugium: Tutorem Classicumque adpulsae luntres vexere. Ne tum quidem Romana classis pugnae adfuit, et iussum erat, sed obstitit formido et remiges per alia militiae munia dispersi. Sane Cerialis parum temporis ad exequenda imperia dabat, subitus consiliis set eventu clarus: aderat fortuna, etiam ubi artes defuissent; hinc ipsi exercituique minor cura disciplinae. Et paucos post dies, quamquam periculum captivitatis evasisset, infamiam non vitavit.

22. He had gone to Novesium and Bonna, to inspect the camps which were then in course of erection for the winter abode of the legions, and was making his way back with the fleet, his escort being in disorder, and his sentries negligent. This was observed by the Germans, and they planned a surprise. They chose a dark and cloudy night, and moving rapidly down the stream, entered the entrenchments without opposition. The carnage was at first helped on by a cunning device. They cut the ropes of the tents, and slaughtered the soldiers as they lay buried beneath their own dwellings. Another force put the fleet into confusion, threw their grapling irons on the vessels, and dragged them away by the sterns. They sought at first to elude notice by silence, but when the slaughter was begun, by way of increasing the panic they raised on all sides a deafening shout. The Romans, awakened by sounds, looked for their arms and rushed through the passages of the camp, some few with their proper accoutrements, but most with their garments wrapped round their shoulders, and with drawn swords in their hands. The general, who was half asleep, and all but naked, was saved by the enemy's mistake. They carried off the praetorian vessel, which was distinguished by a flag, believing that the general was on board. Cerialis indeed had passed the night elsewhere, in the company, as many believed, of an Ubian woman, Claudia Sacrata. The sentinels sought to excuse their own scandalous neglect by the disgraceful conduct of the general, alleging that they had been ordered to be silent, that they might not disturb his rest, and that, from omitting the watchwords and the usual challenges, they had themselves fallen asleep. The enemy rowed back in broad daylight with the captured vessels. The praetorian trireme they towed up the river Lupia as a present to Veleda.

22. Profectus Novaesium Bonnamque ad visenda castra, quae hiematuris legionibus erigebantur, navibus remeabat disiecto agmine, incuriosis vigiliis. Animadversum id Germanis et insidias composuere: electa nox atra nubibus, et prono amne rapti nullo prohibente vallum ineunt. Prima caedes astu adiuta: incisis tabernaculorum funibus suismet tentoriis coopertos trucidabant. Aliud agmen turbare classem, inicere vincla, trahere puppis; utque ad fallendum silentio, ita coepta caede, quo plus terroris adderent, cuncta clamoribus miscebant. Romani vulneribus exciti quaerunt arma, ruunt per vias, pauci ornatu militari, plerique circum brachia torta veste et strictis mucronibus. Dux semisomnus ac prope intectus errore hostium servatur: namque praetoriam navem vexillo insignem, illic ducem rati, abripiunt. Cerialis alibi noctem egerat, ut plerique credidere, ob stuprum Claudiae Sacratae mulieris Vbiae. Vigiles flagitium suum ducis dedecore excusabant, tamquam iussi silere ne quietem eius turbarent; ita intermisso signo et vocibus se quoque in somnum lapsos. Multa luce revecti hostes captivis navibus, praetoriam triremem flumine Lupia donum Veledae traxere.

23. Civilis was seized by a desire to make a naval demonstration. He manned all the triremes that he had, and such vessels as were propelled by a single bank of oars. To these he added a vast number of boats. He put in each three or four hundred men, the usual complement of a Liburnian galley. With these were the captured vessels, in which, picturesquely enough, plaids of various colours were used for sails. The place selected was an expanse of water, not unlike the sea, where the mouth of the Mosa serves to discharge the Rhine into the ocean. The motive for equipping this fleet was, to say nothing of the natural vanity of this people, a desire to intercept, by this alarming demonstration, the supplies that were approaching from Gaul. Cerialis, more in astonishment than alarm, drew up his fleet in line, and, though inferior in numbers, it had the advantage in the experience of the crews, the skill of the pilots, and the size of the vessels. The Romans had the stream with them, the enemy's vessels were propelled by the wind. Thus passing each other, they separated after a brief discharge of light missiles. Civilis attempted nothing more, and retired to the other side of the Rhine. Cerialis mercilessly ravaged the Island of the Batavi, but, with a policy familiar to commanders, left untouched the estates and houses of Civilis. Meanwhile, however, the autumn was far advanced, and the river, swollen by the continual rains of the season, overflowed the island, marshy and low-lying as it is, till it resembled a lake. There were no ships, no provisions at hand, and the camp, which was situated on low ground, was in process of being carried away by the force of the stream.

23. Civilem cupido incessit navalem aciem ostentandi: complet quod biremium quaeque simplici ordine agebantur; adiecta ingens luntrium vis, tricenos quadragenosque ferunt, armamenta Liburnicis solita; et simul captae luntres sagulis versicoloribus haud indecore pro velis iuvabantur. Spatium velut aequoris electum quo Mosae fluminis os amnem Rhenum Oceano adfundit. Causa instruendae classis super insitam genti vanitatem ut eo terrore commeatus Gallia adventantes interciperentur. Cerialis miraculo magis quam metu derexit classem, numero imparem, usu remigum, gubernatorum arte, navium magnitudine potiorem. His flumen secundum, illi vento agebantur: sic praevecti temptato levium telorum iactu dirimuntur. Civilis nihil ultra ausus trans Rhenum concessit: Cerialis insulam Batavorum hostiliter populatus agros villasque Civilis intactas nota arte ducum sinebat, cum interim flexu autumni et crebris per aequinoctium imbribus superfusus amnis palustrem humilemque insulam in faciem stagni opplevit. Nec classis aut commeatus aderant, castraque in plano sita vi fluminis differebantur.

24. That the legions might then have been crushed, and that the Germans wished to crush them, but were turned from their purpose by his own craft, was claimed as a merit by Civilis; nor is it unlike the truth, since a capitulation followed in a few days. Cerialis, sending secret emissaries, had held out the prospect of peace to the Batavi, and of pardon to Civilis, while he advised Veleda and her relatives to change by a well-timed service to the Roman people the fortune of war, which so many disasters had shewn to be adverse. He reminded them that the Treveri had been beaten, that the Ubii had submitted, that the Batavi had had their country taken from them, and that from the friendship of Civilis nothing else had been gained but wounds, defeat, and mourning; an exile and a fugitive he could only be a burden to those who entertained him, and they had already trespassed enough in crossing the Rhine so often. If they attempted anything more, on their side would be the wrong and the guilt, with the Romans the vengeance of heaven.

24. Potuisse tunc opprimi legiones et voluisse Germanos, sed dolo a se flexos imputavit Civilis; neque abhorret vero, quando paucis post diebus deditio insecuta est. Nam Cerialis per occultos nuntios Batavis pacem, Civili veniam ostentans, Veledam propinquosque monebat fortunam belli, tot cladibus adversam, opportuno erga populum Romanum merito mutare: caesos Treviros, receptos Vbios, ereptam Batavis patriam; neque aliud Civilis amicitia partum quam vulnera fugas luctus. Exulem eum et extorrem recipientibus oneri, et satis peccavisse quod totiens Rhenum transcenderint. Si quid ultra moliantur, inde iniuriam et culpam, hinc ultionem et deos fore.

25. Thus promises were mingled with threats. When the fidelity of the Transrhenane tribes had been thus shaken, among the Batavi also there arose debates. "We can no longer," they said, "postpone our ruin. The servitude of the whole world cannot be averted by a single nation. What has been accomplished by destroying legions with fire and sword, but that more legions and stronger have been brought up? If it was for Vespasian that we fought this war, then Vespasian rules the world; if we meant to challenge to battle the Roman people, then what a mere fraction of the human race are the Batavi! Look at the Rhaetians and Noricans, at the burdens borne by the other allies. No tribute, but valour and manhood are demanded of us. This is the next thing to liberty, and if we must choose between masters, then we may more honourably bear with the Emperors of Rome, than with the women of the Germans." Such were the murmurs of the lower class; the nobles spoke in fiercer language. "We have been driven into war," they said, "by the fury of Civilis. He sought to counterbalance his private wrongs by the destruction of his nation. Then were the Gods angry with the Batavi when the legions were besieged, when the legates were slain, when the war, so necessary to that one man, so fatal to us, was begun. We are at the last extremity, unless we think of repenting, and avow our repentance by punishing the guilty."

25. Miscebantur minis promissa; et concussa Transrhenanorum fide inter Batavos quoque sermones orti: non prorogandam ultra ruinam, nec posse ab una natione totius orbis servitium depelli. Quid profectum caede et incendiis legionum nisi ut plures validioresque accirentur? Si Vespasiano bellum navaverint, Vespasianum rerum potiri: sin populum Romanum armis vocent, quotam partem generis humani Batavos esse? Respicerent Raetos Noricosque et ceterorum onera sociorum: sibi non tributa, sed virtutem et viros indici. Proximum id libertati; et si dominorum electio sit, honestius principes Romanorum quam Germanorum feminas tolerari. Haec vulgus, proceres atrociora: Civilis rabie semet in arma trusos; illum domesticis malis excidium gentis opposuisse. Tunc infensos Batavis deos, cum obsiderentur legiones, interficerentur legati, bellum uni necessarium, ferale ipsis sumeretur. Ventum ad extrema, ni resipiscere incipiant et noxii capitis poena paenitentiam fateantur.

26. These dispositions did not escape the notice of Civilis. He determined to anticipate them, moved not only by weariness of his sufferings, but also by that clinging to life which often breaks the noblest spirits. He asked for a conference. The bridge over the river Nabalia was cut down, and the two generals advanced to the broken extremities. Civilis thus opened the conference:- "If it were before a legate of Vitellius that I were defending myself, my acts would deserve no pardon, my words no credit. All the relations between us were those of hatred and hostility, first made so by him, and afterwards embittered by me. My respect for Vespasian is of long standing. While he was still a subject, we were called friends. This was known to Primus Antonius, whose letters urged me to take up arms, for he feared lest the legions of Germany and the youth of Gaul should cross the Alps. What Antonius advised by his letters, Hordeonius suggested by word of mouth. I fought the same battle in Germany, as did Mucianus in Syria, Aponius in Moesia, Flavianus in Pannonia."

26. Non fefellit Civilem ea inclinatio et praevenire statuit, super taedium malorum etiam spe vitae, quae plerumque magnos animos infringit. Petito conloquio scinditur Nabaliae fluminis pons, in cuius abrupta progressi duces, et Civilis ita coepit: 'si apud Vitellii legatum defenderer, neque facto meo venia neque dictis fides debebatur; cuncta inter nos inimica: hostilia ab illo coepta, a me aucta erant: erga Vespasianum vetus mihi observantia, et cum privatus esset, amici vocabamur. Hoc Primo Antonio notum, cuius epistulis ad bellum actus sum, ne Germanicae legiones et Gallica iuventus Alpis transcenderent. Quae Antonius epistulis, Hordeonius Flaccus praesens monebat: arma in Germania movi, quae Mucianus in Syria, Aponius in Moesia, Flavianus in Pannonia * * * '

(At this point the Histories break off. We do not know what happened to Civilis. The Batavians seem to have received favorable treatment.)

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