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Tacitus: Annals Book 12 [30]

30. But the Iazyges, who could not endure a siege, dispersed themselves throughout the surrounding country and rendered an engagement inevitable, as the Ligii and Hermunduri had there rushed to the attack. So Vannius came down out of his fortresses, and though he was defeated in battle, notwithstanding his reverse, he won some credit by having fought with his own hand, and received wounds on his breast. He then fled to the fleet which was awaiting him on the Danube, and was soon followed by his adherents, who received grants of land and were settled in Pannonia. Vangio and Sido divided his kingdom between them; they were admirably loyal to us, and among their subjects, whether the cause was in themselves or in the nature of despotism, much loved, while seeking to acquire power, and yet more hated when they had acquired it.

30. Sed Iazuges obsidionis impatientes et proximos per campos vagi necessitudinem pugnae attulere, quia Lugius Hermundurusque illic ingruerant. igitur degressus castellis Vannius funditur proelio, quamquam rebus adversis laudatus quod et pugnam manu capessiit et corpore adverso vulnera excepit. ceterum ad classem in Danuvio opperientem perfugit; secuti mox clientes et acceptis agris in Pannonia locati sunt. regnum Vangio ac Sido inter se partivere, egregia adversus nos fide, subiectis, suone an servitii ingenio, dum adipiscerentur dominationes, multa caritate, et maiore odio, postquam adepti sunt.

31. Meanwhile, in Britain, Publius Ostorius, the propraetor, found himself confronted by disturbance. The enemy had burst into the territories of our allies with all the more fury, as they imagined that a new general would not march against them with winter beginning and with an army of which he knew nothing. Ostorius, well aware that first events are those which produce alarm or confidence, by a rapid movement of his light cohorts, cut down all who opposed him, pursued those who fled, and lest they should rally, and so an unquiet and treacherous peace might allow no rest to the general and his troops, he prepared to disarm all whom he suspected, and to occupy with encampments the whole country to the Avon and Severn. The Iceni, a powerful tribe, which war had not weakened, as they had voluntarily joined our alliance, were the first to resist. At their instigation the surrounding nations chose as a battlefield a spot walled in by a rude barrier, with a narrow approach, impenetrable to cavalry. Through these defences the Roman general, though he had with him only the allied troops, without the strength of the legions, attempted to break, and having assigned their positions to his cohorts, he equipped even his cavalry for the work of infantry. Then at a given signal they forced the barrier, routing the enemy who were entangled in their own defences. The rebels, conscious of their guilt, and finding escape barred, performed many noble feats. In this battle, Marius Ostorius, the general's son, won the reward for saving a citizen's life.

31. At in Britannia P. Ostorium pro praetore turbidae res excepere, effusis in agrum sociorum hostibus eo violentius quod novum ducem exercitu ignoto et coepta hieme iturum obviam non rebantur. ille gnarus primis eventibus metum aut fiduciam gigni, citas cohortis rapit et caesis qui restiterant, disiectos consectatus, ne rursus conglobarentur infensaque et infida pax non duci, non militi requiem permitteret, detrahere arma suspectis cunctaque castris Avonam [inter] et Sabrinam fluvios cohibere parat. quod primi Iceni abnuere, valida gens nec proeliis contusi, quia socie tatem nostram volentes accesserant. hisque auctoribus circumiectae nationes locum pugnae delegere saeptum agresti aggere et aditu angusto, ne pervius equiti foret. ea munimenta dux Romanus, quamquam sine robore legionum socialis copias ducebat, perrumpere adgreditur et distributis cohortibus turmas quoque peditum ad munia accingit. tunc dato signo perfringunt aggerem suisque claustris impeditos turbant. atque illi conscientia rebellionis et obsaeptis effugiis multa et clara facinora fecere: qua pugna filius legati M. Ostorius servati civis decus meruit.

32. The defeat of the Iceni quieted those who were hesitating between war and peace. Then the army was marched against the Cangi; their territory was ravaged, spoil taken everywhere without the enemy venturing on an engagement, or if they attempted to harass our march by stealthy attacks, their cunning was always punished. And now Ostorius had advanced within a little distance of the sea, facing the island Hibernia, when feuds broke out among the Brigantes and compelled the general's return, for it was his fixed purpose not to undertake any fresh enterprise till he had consolidated his previous successes. The Brigantes indeed, when a few who were beginning hostilities had been slain and the rest pardoned, settled down quietly; but on the Silures neither terror nor mercy had the least effect; they persisted in war and could be quelled only by legions encamped in their country. That this might be the more promptly effected, a colony of a strong body of veterans was established at Camulodunum on the conquered lands, as a defence against the rebels, and as a means of imbuing the allies with respect for our laws.

32. Ceterum clade Icenorum compositi qui bellum inter et pacem dubitabant, et ductus in Decangos exercitus. vastati agri, praedae passim actae, non ausis aciem hostibus, vel si ex occulto carpere agmen temptarent, punito dolo. iamque ventum haud procul mari, quod Hiberniam insulam aspectat, cum ortae apud Brigantas discordiae retraxere ducem, destinationis certum, ne nova moliretur nisi prioribus firmatis. et Brigantes quidem, paucis qui arma coeptabant interfectis, in reliquos data venia, resedere: Silurum gens non atrocitate, non clementia mutabatur, quin bellum exerceret castrisque legionum premenda foret. id quo promptius veniret, colonia Camulodunum valida veteranorum manu deducitur in agros captivos, subsidium adversus rebellis et imbuendis sociis ad officia legum.

33. The army then marched against the Silures, a naturally fierce people and now full of confidence in the might of Caractacus, who by many an indecisive and many a successful battle had raised himself far above all the other generals of the Britons. Inferior in military strength, but deriving an advantage from the deceptiveness of the country, he at once shifted the war by a stratagem into the territory of the Ordovices, where, joined by all who dreaded peace with us, he resolved on a final struggle. He selected a position for the engagement in which advance and retreat alike would be difficult for our men and comparatively easy for his own, and then on some lofty hills, wherever their sides could be approached by a gentle slope, he piled up stones to serve as a rampart. A river too of varying depth was in his front, and his armed bands were drawn up before his defences.

33. Itum inde in Siluras, super propriam ferociam Carataci viribus confisos, quem multa ambigua, multa prospera extulerant ut certeros Britannorum imperatores praemineret. sed tum astu locorum fraude prior, vi militum inferior, transfert bellum in Ordovicas, additisque qui pacem nostram metuebant, novissimum casum experitur, sumpto ad proelium loco, ut aditus abscessus, cuncta nobis importuna et suis in melius essent, hinc montibus arduis, et si qua clementer accedi poterant, in modum valli saxa praestruit: et praefluebat amnis vado incerto, catervaeque armatorum pro munimentis constiterant.

34. Then too the chieftains of the several tribes went from rank to rank, encouraging and confirming the spirit of their men by making light of their fears, kindling their hopes, and by every other warlike incitement. As for Caractacus, he flew hither and thither, protesting that that day and that battle would be the beginning of the recovery of their freedom, or of everlasting bondage. He appealed, by name, to their forefathers who had driven back the dictator Caesar, by whose valour they were free from the Roman axe and tribute, and still preserved inviolate the persons of their wives and of their children. While he was thus speaking, the host shouted applause; every warrior bound himself by his national oath not to shrink from weapons or wounds.

34. Ad hoc gentium ductores circumire hortari, firmare animos minuendo metu, accendenda spe aliisque belli incitamentis: enimvero Caratacus huc illuc volitans illum diem, illam aciem testabatur aut reciperandae libertatis aut servitutis aeternae initium fore; vocabatque nomina maiorum, qui dictatorem Caesarem pepulissent, quorum virtute vacui a securibus et tributis intemerata coniugum et liberorum corpora retinerent. haec atque talia dicenti adstrepere vulgus, gentili quisque religione obstringi, non telis, non vulneribus cessuros.

35. Such enthusiasm confounded the Roman general. The river too in his face, the rampart they had added to it, the frowning hilltops, the stern resistance and masses of fighting men everywhere apparent, daunted him. But his soldiers insisted on battle, exclaiming that valour could overcome all things; and the prefects and tribunes, with similar language, stimulated the ardour of the troops. Ostorius having ascertained by a survey the inaccessible and the assailable points of the position, led on his furious men, and crossed the river without difficulty. When he reached the barrier, as long as it was a fight with missiles, the wounds and the slaughter fell chiefly on our soldiers; but when he had formed the military testudo, and the rude, ill-compacted fence of stones was torn down, and it was an equal hand-to-hand engagement, the barbarians retired to the heights. Yet even there, both light and heavy-armed soldiers rushed to the attack; the first harassed the foe with missiles, while the latter closed with them, and the opposing ranks of the Britons were broken, destitute as they were of the defence of breast-plates or helmets. When they faced the auxiliaries, they were felled by the swords and javelins of our legionaries; if they wheeled round, they were again met by the sabres and spears of the auxiliaries. It was a glorious victory; the wife and daughter of Caractacus were captured, and his brothers too were admitted to surrender.

35. Obstupefecit ea alacritas ducem Romanum; simul obiectus amnis, additum vallum, imminentia iuga, nihil nisi atrox et propugnatoribus frequens terrebat. sed miles proelium poscere, cuncta vurtute expugnabilia clamitare; praefectique [et] tribuni paria disserentes ardorem exercitus intendebant. tum Ostorius, circumspectis quae impenetrabilia quaeque pervia, ducit infensos amnemque haud difficulter evadit. ubi ventum ad aggerem, dum missilibus certabatur, plus vulnerum in nos et pleraeque caedes oriebantur: postquam facta testudine rudes et informes saxorum compages distractae parque comminus acies, decedere barbari in iuga montium. sed eo quoque inrupere ferentarius gravisque miles, illi telis adsultantes, hi conferto gradu, turbatis contra Britannorum ordinibus, apud quos nulla loricarum galearumve tegmina; et si auxiliaribus resisterent, gladiis ac pilis legionariorum, si huc verterent, spathis et hastis auxiliarium sternebantur. clara ea victoria fuit, captaque uxor et filia Carataci fratresque in deditionem accepti.

36. There is seldom safety for the unfortunate, and Caractacus, seeking the protection of Cartismandua, queen of the Brigantes, was put in chains and delivered up to the conquerors, nine years after the beginning of the war in Britain. His fame had spread thence, and travelled to the neighbouring islands and provinces, and was actually celebrated in Italy. All were eager to see the great man, who for so many years had defied our power. Even at Rome the name of Caractacus was no obscure one; and the emperor, while he exalted his own glory, enhanced the renown of the vanquished. The people were summoned as to a grand spectacle; the praetorian cohorts were drawn up under arms in the plain in front of their camp; then came a procession of the royal vassals, and the ornaments and neck-chains and the spoils which the king had won in wars with other tribes, were displayed. Next were to be seen his brothers, his wife and daughter; last of all, Caractacus himself. All the rest stooped in their fear to abject supplication; not so the king, who neither by humble look nor speech sought compassion.

36. Ipse, ut ferme intuta sunt adversa, cum fidem Cartimanduae reginae Brigantum petivisset, vinctus ac victoribus traditus est, nono post anno quam bellum in Britannia coeptum. unde fama eius evecta insulas et proximas provincias pervagata per Italiam quoque celebrabatur, avebantque visere, quis ille tot per annos opes nostras sprevisset. ne Romae quidem ignobile Carataci nomen erat; et Caesar dum suum decus extollit, addidit gloriam victo. vocatus quippe ut ad insigne spectaclum populus: stetere in armis praetoriae cohortes campo qui castra praeiacet. tunc incedentibus regiis clientulis phalerae torques quaeque bellis externis quaesiverat traducta, mox fratres et coniunx et filia, postremo ipse ostentatus. ceterorum preces degeneres fuere ex metu: at non Caratacus aut vultu demisso aut verbis misericordiam requirens, ubi tribunali adstitit, in hunc modum locutus est.

37. When he was set before the emperor's tribunal, he spoke as follows: "Had my moderation in prosperity been equal to my noble birth and fortune, I should have entered this city as your friend rather than as your captive; and you would not have disdained to receive, under a treaty of peace, a king descended from illustrious ancestors and ruling many nations. My present lot is as glorious to you as it is degrading to myself. I had men and horses, arms and wealth. What wonder if I parted with them reluctantly? If you Romans choose to lord it over the world, does it follow that the world is to accept slavery? Were I to have been at once delivered up as a prisoner, neither my fall nor your triumph would have become famous. My punishment would be followed by oblivion, whereas, if you save my life, I shall be an everlasting memorial of your clemency." Upon this the emperor granted pardon to Caractacus, to his wife, and to his brothers. Released from their bonds, they did homage also to Agrippina who sat near, conspicuous on another throne, in the same language of praise and gratitude. It was indeed a novelty, quite alien to ancient manners, for a woman to sit in front of Roman standards. In fact, Agrippina boasted that she was herself a partner in the empire which her ancestors had won.

37. 'Si quanta nobilitas et fortuna mihi fuit, tanta rerum prosperarum moderatio fuisset, amicus potius in hanc urbem quam captus venissem, neque dedignatus esses claris maioribus ortum, plurimis gentibus imperitantem foedere [in] pacem accipere. praesens sors mea ut mihi informis, sic tibi magnifica est. habui equos viros, arma opes: quid mirum si haec invitus amisi? nam si vos omnibus imperitare vultis, sequitur ut omnes servitutem accipiant? si statim deditus traderet, neque mea fortuna neque tua gloria inclaruisset; et supplicium mei oblivio sequeretur: at si incolumem servaveris, aeternum exemplar clementiae ero.' ad ea Caesar veniam ipsique et coniugi et fratribus tribuit. atque illi vinclis absoluti Agrippinam quoque, haud procul alio suggestu conspicuam, isdem quibus principem laudibus gratibusque venerati sunt. novum sane et moribus veterum insolitum, feminam signis Romanis praesidere: ipsa semet parti a maioribus suis imperii sociam ferebat.

38. The Senate was then assembled, and speeches were delivered full of pompous eulogy on the capture of Caractacus. It was as glorious, they said, as the display of Syphax by Scipio, or of Perses by Lucius Paulus, or indeed of any captive prince by any of our generals to the people of Rome. Triumphal distinctions were voted to Ostorius, who thus far had been successful, but soon afterwards met with reverses; either because, when Caractacus was out of the way, our discipline was relaxed under an impression that the war was ended, or because the enemy, out of compassion for so great a king, was more ardent in his thirst for vengeance. Instantly they rushed from all parts on the camp-prefect, and legionary cohorts left to establish fortified positions among the Silures, and had not speedy succour arrived from towns and fortresses in the neighbourhood, our forces would then have been totally destroyed. Even as it was, the camp-prefect, with eight centurions, and the bravest of the soldiers, were slain; and shortly afterwards, a foraging party of our men, with some cavalry squadrons sent to their support, was utterly routed.

38. Vocati posthac patres multa et magnifica super captivitate Carataci disseruere, neque minus id clarum quam quod Syphacem P. Scipio, Persen L. Paulus, et si qui alii vinctos reges populo Romano ostendere. censentur Ostorio triumphi insignia, prosperis ad id rebus eius, mox ambiguis, sive amoto Carataco, quasi debellatum foret, minus intenta apud nos militia fuit, sive hostes miseratione tanti regis acrius ad ultionem exarsere. praefectum castrorum et legionarias cohortis extruendis apud Siluras praesidiis relictas circumfundunt. ac ni cito nuntiis ex castellis proxi mis subventum foret copiarum obsidio occidione obcubuissent: praefectus tamen et octo centuriones ac promptissimus quisque e manipulis cecidere. nec multo post pabulantis nostros missasque ad subsidium turmas profligant.

39. Ostorius then deployed his light cohorts, but even thus he did not stop the flight, till our legions sustained the brunt of the battle. Their strength equalized the conflict, which after a while was in our favour. The enemy fled with trifling loss, as the day was on the decline. Now began a series of skirmishes, for the most part like raids, in woods and morasses, with encounters due to chance or to courage, to mere heedlessness or to calculation, to fury or to lust of plunder, under directions from the officers, or sometimes even without their knowledge. Conspicuous above all in stubborn resistance were the Silures, whose rage was fired by words rumoured to have been spoken by the Roman general, to the effect, that as the Sugambri had been formerly destroyed or transplanted into Gaul, so the name of the Silures ought to be blotted out. Accordingly they cut off two of our auxiliary cohorts, the rapacity of whose officers let them make incautious forays; and by liberal gifts of spoil and prisoners to the other tribes, they were luring them too into revolt, when Ostorius, worn out by the burden of his anxieties, died, to the joy of the enemy, who thought that a campaign at least, though not a single battle, had proved fatal to general whom none could despise.

39. Tum Ostorius cohortis expeditas opposuit; nec ideo fugam sistebat, ni legiones proelium excepissent: earum robore aequata pugna, dein nobis pro meliore fuit. effugere hostes tenui damno, quia inclinabat dies. crebra hinc proelia et saepius in modum latrocinii per saltus per paludes, ut cuique sors aut virtus, temere proviso, ob iram ob praedam, iussu et aliquando ignaris ducibus. ac praecipua Silurum pervicacia, quos accendebat vulgata imperatoris Romani vox, ut quondam Sugambri excisi aut in Gallias traiecti forent, ita Silurum nomen penitus extinguendum. igitur duas auxiliaris cohortis avaritia praefectorum incautius populantis intercepere; spoliaque et captivos largiendo ceteras quoque nationes ad defectionem trahebant, cum taedio curarum fessus Ostorius concessit vita, laetis hostibus, tamquam ducem haud spernendum etsi non proelium, at certe bellum absumpsisset.

Next: Book 12 [40]