ROME at the beginning was ruled by kings. Freedom and the consulship were established by Lucius Brutus. Dictatorships were held for a temporary crisis. The power of the decemvirs did not last beyond two years, nor was the consular jurisdiction of the military tribunes of long duration. The despotisms of Cinna and Sulla were brief; the rule of Pompeius and of Crassus soon yielded before Caesar; the arms of Lepidus and Antonius before Augustus; who, when the world was wearied by civil strife, subjected it to empire under the title of “Prince.” But the successes and reverses of the old Roman people have been recorded by famous historians; and fine intellects were not wanting to describe the times of Augustus, till growing sycophancy scared them away. The histories of Tiberius, Caius, Claudius, and Nero, while they were in power, were falsified through terror, and after their death were written under the irritation of a recent hatred. Hence my purpose is to relate a few facts about Augustus — more particularly his last acts, then the reign of Tiberius, and all which follows, without either bitterness or partiality, from any motives to which I am far removed.
When after the destruction of Brutus and Cassius there was no longer any army of the Commonwealth, when Pompeius was crushed in Sicily, and when, with Lepidus pushed aside and Antonius slain, even the Julian faction had only Caesar left to lead it, then, dropping the title of triumvir, and giving out that he was a Consul, and was satisfied with a tribune’s authority for the protection of the people, Augustus won over the soldiers with gifts, the populace with cheap corn, and all men with the sweets of repose, and so grew greater by degrees, while he concentrated in himself the functions of the Senate, the magistrates, and the laws. He was wholly unopposed, for the boldest spirits had fallen in battle, or in the proscription, while the remaining nobles, the readier they were to be slaves, were raised the higher by wealth and promotion, so that, aggrandised by revolution, they preferred the safety of the present to the dangerous past. Nor did the provinces dislike that condition of affairs, for they distrusted the government of the Senate and the people, because of the rivalries between the leading men and the rapacity of the officials, while the protection of the laws was unavailing, as they were continually deranged by violence, intrigue, and finally by corruption.
Augustus meanwhile, as supports to his despotism, raised to the pontificate and curule aedileship Claudius Marcellus, his sister’s son, while a mere stripling, and Marcus Agrippa, of humble birth, a good soldier, and one who had shared his victory, to two consecutive consulships, and as Marcellus soon afterwards died, he also accepted him as his son-in-law. Tiberius Nero and Claudius Drusus, his stepsons, he honoured with imperial tides, although his own family was as yet undiminished. For he had admitted the children of Agrippa, Caius and Lucius, into the house of the Caesars; and before they had yet laid aside the dress of boyhood he had most fervently desired, with an outward show of reluctance, that they should be entitled “princes of the youth,” and be consuls-elect. When Agrippa died, and Lucius Caesar as he was on his way to our armies in Spain, and Caius while returning from Armenia, still suffering from a wound, were prematurely cut off by destiny, or by their step-mother Livia’s treachery, Drusus too having long been dead, Nero remained alone of the stepsons, and in him everything tended to centre. He was adopted as a son, as a colleague in empire and a partner in the tribunitian power, and paraded through all the armies, no longer through his mother’s secret intrigues, but at her open suggestion. For she had gained such a hold on the aged Augustus that he drove out as an exile into the island of Planasia, his only grandson, Agrippa Postumus, who, though devoid of worthy qualities, and having only the brute courage of physical strength, had not been convicted of any gross offence. And yet Augustus had appointed Germanicus, Drusus’s offspring, to the command of eight legions on the Rhine, and required Tiberius to adopt him, although Tiberius had a son, now a young man, in his house; but he did it that he might have several safeguards to rest on. He had no war at the time on his hands except against the Germans, which was rather to wipe out the disgrace of the loss of Quintilius Varus and his army than out of an ambition to extend the empire, or for any adequate recompense. At home all was tranquil, and there were magistrates with the same titles; there was a younger generation, sprung up since the victory of Actium, and even many of the older men had been born during the civil wars. How few were left who had seen the republic!
Thus the State had been revolutionised, and there was not a vestige left of the old sound morality. Stript of equality, all looked up to the commands of a sovereign without the least apprehension for the present, while Augustus in the vigour of life, could maintain his own position, that of his house, and the general tranquillity. When in advanced old age, he was worn out by a sickly frame, and the end was near and new prospects opened, a few spoke in vain of the blessings of freedom, but most people dreaded and some longed for war. The popular gossip of the large majority fastened itself variously on their future masters. “Agrippa was savage, and had been exasperated by insult, and neither from age nor experience in affairs was equal to so great a burden. Tiberius Nero was of mature years, and had established his fame in war, but he had the old arrogance inbred in the Claudian family, and many symptoms of a cruel temper, though they were repressed, now and then broke out. He had also from earliest infancy been reared in an imperial house; consulships and triumphs had been heaped on him in his younger days; even in the years which, on the pretext of seclusion he spent in exile at Rhodes, he had had no thoughts but of wrath, hypocrisy, and secret sensuality. There was his mother too with a woman caprice. They must, it seemed, be subject to a female and to two striplings besides, who for a while would burden, and some day rend asunder the State.”
While these and like topics were discussed, the infirmities of Augustus increased, and some suspected guilt on his wife’s part. For a rumour had gone abroad that a few months before he had sailed to Planasia on a visit to Agrippa, with the knowledge of some chosen friends, and with one companion, Fabius Maximus; that many tears were shed on both sides, with expressions of affection, and that thus there was a hope of the young man being restored to the home of his grandfather. This, it was said, Maximus had divulged to his wife Marcia, she again to Livia. All was known to Caesar, and when Maximus soon afterwards died, by a death some thought to be self-inflicted, there were heard at his funeral wailings from Marcia, in which she reproached herself for having been the cause of her husband’s destruction. Whatever the fact was, Tiberius as he was just entering Illyria was summoned home by an urgent letter from his mother, and it has not been thoroughly ascertained whether at the city of Nola he found Augustus still breathing or quite lifeless. For Livia had surrounded the house and its approaches with a strict watch, and favourable bulletins were published from time to time, till, provision having been made for the demands of the crisis, one and the same report told men that Augustus was dead and that Tiberius Nero was master of the State.
The first crime of the new reign was the murder of Postumus Agrippa. Though he was surprised and unarmed, a centurion of the firmest resolution despatched him with difficulty. Tiberius gave no explanation of the matter to the Senate; he pretended that there were directions from his father ordering the tribune in charge of the prisoner not to delay the slaughter of Agrippa, whenever he should himself have breathed his last. Beyond a doubt, Augustus had often complained of the young man’s character, and had thus succeeded in obtaining the sanction of a decree of the Senate for his banishment. But he never was hard-hearted enough to destroy any of his kinsfolk, nor was it credible that death was to be the sentence of the grandson in order that the stepson might feel secure. It was more probable that Tiberius and Livia, the one from fear, the other from a stepmother’s enmity, hurried on the destruction of a youth whom they suspected and hated. When the centurion reported, according to military custom, that he had executed the command, Tiberius replied that he had not given the command, and that the act must be justified to the Senate.
As soon as Sallustius Crispus who shared the secret (he had, in fact, sent the written order to the tribune) knew this, fearing that the charge would be shifted on himself, and that his peril would be the same whether he uttered fiction or truth, he advised Livia not to divulge the secrets of her house or the counsels of friends, or any services performed by the soldiers, nor to let Tiberius weaken the strength of imperial power by referring everything to the Senate, for “the condition,” he said, “of holding empire is that an account cannot be balanced unless it be rendered to one person.”
Meanwhile at Rome people plunged into slavery — consuls, senators, knights. The higher a man’s rank, the more eager his hypocrisy, and his looks the more carefully studied, so as neither to betray joy at the decease of one emperor nor sorrow at the rise of another, while he mingled delight and lamentations with his flattery. Sextus Pompeius and Sextus Apuleius, the consuls, were the first to swear allegiance to Tiberius Caesar, and in their presence the oath was taken by Seius Strabo and Caius Turranius, respectively the commander of the praetorian cohorts and the superintendent of the corn supplies. Then the Senate, the soldiers and the people did the same. For Tiberius would inaugurate everything with the consuls, as though the ancient constitution remained, and he hesitated about being emperor. Even the proclamation by which he summoned the senators to their chamber, he issued merely with the title of Tribune, which he had received under Augustus. The wording of the proclamation was brief, and in a very modest tone. “He would,” it said, “provide for the honours due to his father, and not leave the lifeless body, and this was the only public duty he now claimed.”
As soon, however, as Augustus was dead, he had given the watchword to the praetorian cohorts, as commander-in-chief. He had the guard under arms, with all the other adjuncts of a court; soldiers attended him to the forum; soldiers went with him to the Senate House. He sent letters to the different armies, as though supreme power was now his, and showed hesitation only when he spoke in the Senate. His chief motive was fear that Germanicus, who had at his disposal so many legions, such vast auxiliary forces of the allies, and such wonderful popularity, might prefer the possession to the expectation of empire. He looked also at public opinion, wishing to have the credit of having been called and elected by the State rather than of having crept into power through the intrigues of a wife and a dotard’s adoption. It was subsequently understood that he assumed a wavering attitude, to test likewise the temper of the nobles. For he would twist a word or a look into a crime and treasure it up in his memory.
On the first day of the Senate he allowed nothing to be discussed but the funeral of Augustus, whose will, which was brought in by the Vestal Virgins, named as his heirs Tiberius and Livia. The latter was to be admitted into the Julian family with the name of Augusta; next in expectation were the grand and great-grandchildren. In the third place, he had named the chief men of the State, most of whom he hated, simply out of ostentation and to win credit with posterity. His legacies were not beyond the scale of a private citizen, except a bequest of forty-three million five hundred thousand sesterces “to the people and populace of Rome,” of one thousand to every praetorian soldier, and of three hundred to every man in the legionary cohorts composed of Roman citizens.
Next followed a deliberation about funeral honours. Of these the most imposing were thought fitting. The procession was to be conducted through “the gate of triumph,” on the motion of Gallus Asinius; the titles of the laws passed, the names of the nations conquered by Augustus were to be borne in front, on that of Lucius Arruntius. Messala Valerius further proposed that the oath of allegiance to Tiberius should be yearly renewed, and when Tiberius asked him whether it was at his bidding that he had brought forward this motion, he replied that he had proposed it spontaneously, and that in whatever concerned the State he would use only his own discretion, even at the risk of offending. This was the only style of adulation which yet remained. The Senators unanimously exclaimed that the body ought to be borne on their shoulders to the funeral pile. The emperor left the point to them with disdainful moderation, he then admonished the people by a proclamation not to indulge in that tumultuous enthusiasm which had distracted the funeral of the Divine Julius, or express a wish that Augustus should be burnt in the Forum instead of in his appointed resting-place in the Campus Martius.
On the day of the funeral soldiers stood round as a guard, amid much ridicule from those who had either themselves witnessed or who had heard from their parents of the famous day when slavery was still something fresh, and freedom had been resought in vain, when the slaying of Caesar, the Dictator, seemed to some the vilest, to others, the most glorious of deeds. “Now,” they said, “an aged sovereign, whose power had lasted long, who had provided his heirs with abundant means to coerce the State, requires forsooth the defence of soldiers that his burial may be undisturbed.”
Then followed much talk about Augustus himself, and many expressed an idle wonder that the same day marked the beginning of his assumption of empire and the close of his life, and, again, that he had ended his days at Nola in the same house and room as his father Octavius. People extolled too the number of his consulships, in which he had equalled Valerius Corvus and Caius Marius combined, the continuance for thirty-seven years of the tribunitian power, the title of Imperator twenty-one times earned, and his other honours which had either frequently repeated or were wholly new. Sensible men, however, spoke variously of his life with praise and censure. Some said “that dutiful feeling towards a father, and the necessities of the State in which laws had then no place, drove him into civil war, which can neither be planned nor conducted on any right principles. He had often yielded to Antonius, while he was taking vengeance on his father’s murderers, often also to Lepidus. When the latter sank into feeble dotage and the former had been ruined by his profligacy, the only remedy for his distracted country was the rule of a single man. Yet the State had been organized under the name neither of a kingdom nor a dictatorship, but under that of a prince. The ocean and remote rivers were the boundaries of the empire; the legions, provinces, fleets, all things were linked together; there was law for the citizens; there was respect shown to the allies. The capital had been embellished on a grand scale; only in a few instances had he resorted to force, simply to secure general tranquillity.”
It was said, on the other hand, “that filial duty and State necessity were merely assumed as a mask. It was really from a lust of sovereignty that he had excited the veterans by bribery, had, when a young man and a subject, raised an army, tampered with the Consul’s legions, and feigned an attachment to the faction of Pompeius. Then, when by a decree of the Senate he had usurped the high functions and authority of Praetor when Hirtius and Pansa were slain — whether they were destroyed by the enemy, or Pansa by poison infused into a wound, Hirtius by his own soldiers and Caesar’s treacherous machinations — he at once possessed himself of both their armies, wrested the consulate from a reluctant Senate, and turned against the State the arms with which he had been intrusted against Antonius. Citizens were proscribed, lands divided, without so much as the approval of those who executed these deeds. Even granting that the deaths of Cassius and of the Bruti were sacrifices to a hereditary enmity (though duty requires us to waive private feuds for the sake of the public welfare), still Pompeius had been deluded by the phantom of peace, and Lepidus by the mask of friendship. Subsequently, Antonius had been lured on by the treaties of Tarentum and Brundisium, and by his marriage with the sister, and paid by his death the penalty of a treacherous alliance. No doubt, there was peace after all this, but it was a peace stained with blood; there were the disasters of Lollius and Varus, the murders at Rome of the Varros, Egnatii, and Juli.”
The domestic life too of Augustus was not spared. “Nero’s wife had been taken from him, and there had been the farce of consulting the pontiffs, whether, with a child conceived and not yet born, she could properly marry. There were the excesses of Quintus Tedius and Vedius Pollio; last of all, there was Livia, terrible to the State as a mother, terrible to the house of the Caesars as a stepmother. No honour was left for the gods, when Augustus chose to be himself worshipped with temples and statues, like those of the deities, and with flamens and priests. He had not even adopted Tiberius as his successor out of affection or any regard to the State, but, having thoroughly seen his arrogant and savage temper, he had sought glory for himself by a contrast of extreme wickedness.” For, in fact, Augustus, a few years before, when he was a second time asking from the Senate the tribunitian power for Tiberius, though his speech was complimentary, had thrown out certain hints as to his manners, style, and habits of life, which he meant as reproaches, while he seemed to excuse. However, when his obsequies had been duly performed, a temple with a religious ritual was decreed him.
After this all prayers were addressed to Tiberius. He, on his part, urged various considerations, the greatness of the empire, his distrust of himself. “Only,” he said, “the intellect of the Divine Augustus was equal to such a burden. Called as he had been by him to share his anxieties, he had learnt by experience how exposed to fortune’s caprices was the task of universal rule. Consequently, in a state which had the support of so many great men, they should not put everything on one man, as many, by uniting their efforts would more easily discharge public functions.” There was more grand sentiment than good faith in such words. Tiberius’s language even in matters which he did not care to conceal, either from nature or habit, was always hesitating and obscure, and now that he was struggling to hide his feelings completely, it was all the more involved in uncertainty and doubt. The Senators, however, whose only fear was lest they might seem to understand him, burst into complaints, tears, and prayers. They raised their hands to the gods, to the statue of Augustus, and to the knees of Tiberius, when he ordered a document to be produced and read. This contained a description of the resources of the State, of the number of citizens and allies under arms, of the fleets, subject kingdoms, provinces, taxes, direct and indirect, necessary expenses and customary bounties. All these details Augustus had written with his own hand, and had added a counsel, that the empire should be confined to its present limits, either from fear or out of jealousy.
Meantime, while the Senate stooped to the most abject supplication, Tiberius happened to say that although he was not equal to the whole burden of the State, yet he would undertake the charge of whatever part of it might be intrusted to him. Thereupon Asinius Gallus said, “I ask you, Caesar, what part of the State you wish to have intrusted to you?” Confounded by the sudden inquiry he was silent for a few moments; then, recovering his presence of mind, he replied that it would by no means become his modesty to choose or to avoid in a case where he would prefer to be wholly excused. Then Gallus again, who had inferred anger from his looks, said that the question had not been asked with the intention of dividing what could not be separated, but to convince him by his own admission that the body of the State was one, and must be directed by a single mind. He further spoke in praise of Augustus, and reminded Tiberius himself of his victories, and of his admirable deeds for many years as a civilian. Still, he did not thereby soften the emperor’s resentment, for he had long been detested from an impression that, as he had married Vipsania, daughter of Marcus Agrippa, who had once been the wife of Tiberius, he aspired to be more than a citizen, and kept up the arrogant tone of his father, Asinius Pollio.
Next, Lucius Arruntius, who differed but little from the speech of Gallus, gave like offence, though Tiberius had no old grudge against him, but simply mistrusted him, because he was rich and daring, had brilliant accomplishments, and corresponding popularity. For Augustus, when in his last conversations he was discussing who would refuse the highest place, though sufficiently capable, who would aspire to it without being equal to it, and who would unite both the ability and ambition, had described Marcus Lepidus as able but contemptuously indifferent, Gallus Asinius as ambitious and incapable, Lucius Arruntius as not unworthy of it, and, should the chance be given him, sure to make the venture. About the two first there is a general agreement, but instead of Arruntius some have mentioned Cneius Piso, and all these men, except Lepidus, were soon afterwards destroyed by various charges through the contrivance of Tiberius. Quintus Haterius too and Mamercus Scaurus ruffled his suspicious temper, Haterius by having said —“How long, Caesar, will you suffer the State to be without a head?” Scaurus by the remark that there was a hope that the Senate’s prayers would not be fruitless, seeing that he had not used his right as Tribune to negative the motion of the Consuls. Tiberius instantly broke out into invective against Haterius; Scaurus, with whom he was far more deeply displeased, he passed over in silence. Wearied at last by the assembly’s clamorous importunity and the urgent demands of individual Senators, he gave way by degrees, not admitting that he undertook empire, but yet ceasing to refuse it and to be entreated. It is known that Haterius having entered the palace to ask pardon, and thrown himself at the knees of Tiberius as he was walking, was almost killed by the soldiers, because Tiberius fell forward, accidentally or from being entangled by the suppliant’s hands. Yet the peril of so great a man did not make him relent, till Haterius went with entreaties to Augusta, and was saved by her very earnest intercessions.
Great too was the Senate’s sycophancy to Augusta. Some would have her styled “parent”; others “mother of the country,” and a majority proposed that to the name of Caesar should be added “son of Julia.” The emperor repeatedly asserted that there must be a limit to the honours paid to women, and that he would observe similar moderation in those bestowed on himself, but annoyed at the invidious proposal, and indeed regarding a woman’s elevation as a slight to himself, he would not allow so much as a lictor to be assigned her, and forbade the erection of an altar in memory of her adoption, and any like distinction. But for Germanicus Caesar he asked pro-consular powers, and envoys were despatched to confer them on him, and also to express sympathy with his grief at the death of Augustus. The same request was not made for Drusus, because he was consul elect and present at Rome. Twelve candidates were named for the praetorship, the number which Augustus had handed down, and when the Senate urged Tiberius to increase it, he bound himself by an oath not to exceed it.
It was then for the first time that the elections were transferred from the Campus Martius to the Senate. For up to that day, though the most important rested with the emperor’s choice, some were settled by the partialities of the tribes. Nor did the people complain of having the right taken from them, except in mere idle talk, and the Senate, being now released from the necessity of bribery and of degrading solicitations, gladly upheld the change, Tiberius confining himself to the recommendation of only four candidates who were to be nominated without rejection or canvass. Meanwhile the tribunes of the people asked leave to exhibit at their own expense games to be named after Augustus and added to the Calendar as the Augustales. Money was, however, voted from the exchequer, and though the use of the triumphal robe in the circus was prescribed, it was not allowed them to ride in a chariot. Soon the annual celebration was transferred to the praetor, to whose lot fell the administration of justice between citizens and foreigners.
This was the state of affairs at Rome when a mutiny broke out in the legions of Pannonia, which could be traced to no fresh cause except the change of emperors and the prospect it held out of license in tumult and of profit from a civil war. In the summer camp three legions were quartered, under the command of Junius Blaesus, who on hearing of the death of Augustus and the accession of Tiberius, had allowed his men a rest from military duties, either for mourning or rejoicing. This was the beginning of demoralization among the troops, of quarreling, of listening to the talk of every pestilent fellow, in short, of craving for luxury and idleness and loathing discipline and toil. In the camp was one Percennius, who had once been a leader of one of the theatrical factions, then became a common soldier, had a saucy tongue, and had learnt from his applause of actors how to stir up a crowd. By working on ignorant minds, which doubted as to what would be the terms of military service after Augustus, this man gradually influenced them in conversations at night or at nightfall, and when the better men had dispersed, he gathered round him all the worst spirits.
At last, when there were others ready to be abettors of a mutiny, he asked, in the tone of a demagogue, why, like slaves, they submitted to a few centurions and still fewer tribunes. “When,” he said, “will you dare to demand relief, if you do not go with your prayers or arms to a new and yet tottering throne? We have blundered enough by our tameness for so many years, in having to endure thirty or forty campaigns till we grow old, most of us with bodies maimed by wounds. Even dismissal is not the end of our service, but, quartered under a legion’s standard we toil through the same hardships under another title. If a soldier survives so many risks, he is still dragged into remote regions where, under the name of lands, he receives soaking swamps or mountainous wastes. Assuredly, military service itself is burdensome and unprofitable; ten as a day is the value set on life and limb; out of this, clothing, arms, tents, as well as the mercy of centurions and exemptions from duty have to be purchased. But indeed of floggings and wounds, of hard winters, wearisome summers, of terrible war, or barren peace, there is no end. Our only relief can come from military life being entered on under fixed conditions, from receiving each the pay of a denarius, and from the sixteenth year terminating our service. We must be retained no longer under a standard, but in the same camp a compensation in money must be paid us. Do the praetorian cohorts, which have just got their two denarii per man, and which after sixteen years are restored to their homes, encounter more perils? We do not disparage the guards of the capital; still, here amid barbarous tribes we have to face the enemy from our tents.”
The throng applauded from various motives, some pointing with indignation to the marks of the lash, others to their grey locks, and most of them to their threadbare garments and naked limbs. At, last, in their fury they went so far as to propose to combine the three legions into one. Driven from their purpose by the jealousy with which every one sought the chief honour for his own legion, they turned to other thoughts, and set up in one spot the three eagles, with the ensigns of the cohorts. At the same time they piled up turf and raised a mound, that they might have a more conspicuous meeting-place. Amid the bustle Blaesus came up. He upbraided them and held back man after man with the exclamation, “Better imbrue your hands in my blood: it will be less guilt to slay your commander than it is to be in revolt from the emperor. Either living I will uphold the loyalty of the legions, or Pierced to the heart I will hasten on your repentance.”
None the less however was the mound piled up, and it was quite breast high when, at last overcome by his persistency, they gave up their purpose. Blaesus, with the consummate tact of an orator, said, “It is not through mutiny and tumult that the desires of the army ought to be communicated to Caesar, nor did our soldiers of old ever ask so novel a boon of ancient commanders, nor have you yourselves asked it of the Divine Augustus. It is far from opportune that the emperor’s cares, now in their first beginning, should be aggravated. If, however, you are bent upon attempting in peace what even after your victory in the civil wars you did not demand, why, contrary to the habit of obedience, contrary to the law of discipline, do you meditate violence? Decide on sending envoys, and give them instructions in your presence.”
It was carried by acclamation that the son of Blaesus, one of the tribunes, should undertake the mission, and demand for the soldiers release from service after sixteen years. He was to have the rest of their message when the first part had been successful. After the young man departure there was comparative quiet, but there was an arrogant tone among the soldiers, to whom the fact that their commander’s son was pleading their common cause clearly showed that they had wrested by compulsion what they had failed to obtain by good behaviour.
Meanwhile the companies which previous to the mutiny had been sent to Nauportus to make roads and bridges and for other purposes, when they heard of the tumult in the camp, tore up the standards, and having plundered the neighbouring villages and Nauportus itself, which was like a town, assailed the centurions who restrained them with jeers and insults, last of all, with blows. Their chief rage was against Aufidienus Rufus, the camp-prefect, whom they dragged from a waggon, loaded with baggage, and drove on at the head of the column, asking him in ridicule whether he liked to bear such huge burdens and such long marches. Rufus, who had long been a common soldier, then a centurion, and subsequently camp-prefect, tried to revive the old severe discipline, inured as he was to work and toil, and all the sterner because he had endured.
On the arrival of these troops the mutiny broke out afresh, and straggling from the camp they plundered the neighbourhood. Blaesus ordered a few who had conspicuously loaded themselves with spoil to be scourged and imprisoned as a terror to the rest; for, even as it then was, the commander was still obeyed by the centurions and by all the best men among the soldiers. As the men were dragged off, they struggled violently, clasped the knees of the bystanders, called to their comrades by name, or to the company, cohort, or legion to which they respectively belonged, exclaiming that all were threatened with the same fate. At the same time they heaped abuse on the commander; they appealed to heaven and to the gods, and left nothing undone by which they might excite resentment and pity, alarm and rage. They all rushed to the spot, broke open the guardhouse, unbound the prisoners, and were in a moment fraternising with deserters and men convicted on capital charges.
Thence arose a more furious outbreak, with more leaders of the mutiny. Vibulenus, a common soldier, was hoisted in front of the general’s tribunal on the shoulders of the bystanders and addressed the excited throng, who eagerly awaited his intentions. “You have indeed,” he said, “restored light and air to these innocent and most unhappy men, but who restores to my brother his life, or my brother to myself? Sent to you by the German army in our common cause, he was last night butchered by the gladiators whom the general keeps and arms for the destruction of his soldiers. Answer, Blaesus, where you have flung aside the corpse? Even an enemy grudges not burial. When, with embraces and tears, I have sated my grief, order me also to be slain, provided only that when we have been destroyed for no crime, but only because we consulted the good of the legions, we may be buried by these men around me.”
He inflamed their excitement by weeping and smiting his breast and face with his hands. Then, hurling aside those who bore him on their shoulders, and impetuously flinging himself at the feet of one man after another, he roused such dismay and indignation that some of the soldiers put fetters on the gladiators who were among the number of Blaesus’s slaves, others did the like to the rest of his household, while a third party hurried out to look for the corpse. And had it not quickly been known that no corpse was found, that the slaves, when tortures were applied, denied the murder, and that the man never had a brother, they would have been on the point of destroying the general. As it was, they thrust out the tribunes and the camp-prefect; they plundered the baggage of the fugitives, and they killed a centurion, Lucilius, to whom, with soldiers’ humour, they had given the name “Bring another,” because when he had broken one vine-stick on a man’s back, he would call in a loud voice for another and another. The rest sheltered themselves in concealment, and one only was detained, Clemens Julius, whom the soldiers considered a fit person to carry messages, from his ready wit. Two legions, the eighth and the fifteenth, were actually drawing swords against each other, the former demanding the death of a centurion, whom they nicknamed Sirpicus, while the men of the fifteenth defended him, but the soldiers of the ninth interposed their entreaties, and when these were disregarded, their menaces.
This intelligence had such an effect on Tiberius, close as he was, and most careful to hush up every very serious disaster, that he despatched his son Drusus with the leading men of the State and with two praetorian cohorts, without any definite instructions, to take suitable measures. The cohorts were strengthened beyond their usual force with some picked troops. There was in addition a considerable part of the Praetorian cavalry, and the flower of the German soldiery, which was then the emperor’s guard. With them too was the commander of the praetorians, Aelius Sejanus, who had been associated with his own father, Strabo, had great influence with Tiberius, and was to advise and direct the young prince, and to hold out punishment or reward to the soldiers. When Drusus approached, the legions, as a mark of respect, met him, not as usual, with glad looks or the glitter of military decorations, but in unsightly squalor, and faces which, though they simulated grief, rather expressed defiance.
As soon as he entered the entrenchments, they secured the gates with sentries, and ordered bodies of armed men to be in readiness at certain points of the camp. The rest crowded round the general’s tribunal in a dense mass. Drusus stood there, and with a gesture of his hand demanded silence. As often as they turned their eyes back on the throng, they broke into savage exclamations, then looking up to Drusus they trembled. There was a confused hum, a fierce shouting, and a sudden lull. Urged by conflicting emotions, they felt panic and they caused the like. At last, in an interval of the uproar, Drusus read his father’s letter, in which it was fully stated that he had a special care for the brave legions with which he had endured a number of campaigns; that, as soon as his mind had recovered from its grief, he would lay their demands before the Senators; that meanwhile he had sent his son to concede unhesitatingly what could be immediately granted, and that the rest must be reserved for the Senate, which ought to have a voice in showing either favour or severity.
The crowd replied that they had delivered their instructions to Clemens, one of the centurions, which he was to convey to Rome. He began to speak of the soldiers’ discharge after sixteen years, of the rewards of completed service, of the daily pay being a denarius, and of the veterans not being detained under a standard. When Drusus pleaded in answer reference to the Senate and to his father, he was interrupted by a tumultuous shout. “Why had he come, neither to increase the soldiers’ pay, nor to alleviate their hardships, in a word, with no power to better their lot? Yet heaven knew that all were allowed to scourge and to execute. Tiberius used formerly in the name of Augustus to frustrate the wishes of the legions, and the same tricks were now revived by Drusus. Was it only sons who were to visit them? Certainly, it was a new thing for the emperor to refer to the Senate merely what concerned the soldier’s interests. Was then the same Senate to be consulted whenever notice was given of an execution or of a battle? Were their rewards to be at the discretion of absolute rulers, their punishments to be without appeal?”
At last they deserted the general’s tribunal, and to any praetorian soldier or friend of Caesar’s who met them, they used those threatening gestures which are the cause of strife and the beginning of a conflict, with special rage against Cneius Lentulus, because they thought that he above all others, by his age and warlike renown, encouraged Drusus, and was the first to scorn such blots on military discipline. Soon after, as he was leaving with Drusus to betake himself in foresight of his danger to the winter can they surrounded him, and asked him again and again whither he was going; was it to the emperor or to the Senate, there also to oppose the interests of the legions. At the same moment they menaced him savagely and flung stones. And now, bleeding from a blow, and feeling destruction certain, he was rescued by the hurried arrival of the throng which had accompanied Drusus.
That terrible night which threatened an explosion of crime was tranquillised by a mere accident. Suddenly in a clear sky the moon’s radiance seemed to die away. This the soldiers in their ignorance of the cause regarded as an omen of their condition, comparing the failure of her light to their own efforts, and imagining that their attempts would end prosperously should her brightness and splendour be restored to the goddess. And so they raised a din with brazen instruments and the combined notes of trumpets and horns, with joy or sorrow, as she brightened or grew dark. When clouds arose and obstructed their sight, and it was thought she was buried in the gloom, with that proneness to superstition which steals over minds once thoroughly cowed, they lamented that this was a portent of never-ending hardship, and that heaven frowned on their deeds.
Drusus, thinking that he ought to avail himself of this change in their temper and turn what chance had offered to a wise account, ordered the tents to be visited. Clemens, the centurion was summoned with all others who for their good qualities were liked by the common soldiers. These men made their way among the patrols, sentries and guards of the camp-gates, suggesting hope or holding out threats. “How long will you besiege the emperor’s son? What is to be the end of our strifes? Will Percennius and Vibulenus give pay to the soldiers and land to those who have earned their discharge? In a word, are they, instead of the Neros and the Drusi, to control the empire of the Roman people? Why are we not rather first in our repentance as we were last in the offence? Demands made in common are granted slowly; a separate favour you may deserve and receive at the same moment.”
With minds affected by these words and growing mutually suspicious, they divided off the new troops from the old, and one legion from another. Then by degrees the instinct of obedience returned. They quitted the gates and restored to their places the standards which at the beginning of the mutiny they had grouped into one spot.
At daybreak Drusus called them to an assembly, and, though not a practised speaker, yet with natural dignity upbraided them for their past and commended their present behaviour. He was not, he said, to be conquered by terror or by threats. Were he to see them inclining to submission and hear the language of entreaty, he would write to his father, that he might be merciful and receive the legions’ petition. At their prayer, Blaesus and Lucius Apronius, a Roman knight on Drusus’s staff, with Justus Catonius, a first-rank centurion, were again sent to Tiberius. Then ensued a conflict of opinion among them, some maintaining that it was best to wait the envoys’ return and meanwhile humour the soldiers, others, that stronger measures ought to be used, inasmuch as the rabble knows no mean, and inspires fear, unless they are afraid, though when they have once been overawed, they can be safely despised. “While superstition still swayed them, the general should apply terror by removing the leaders of the mutiny.”
Drusus’s temper was inclined to harsh measures. He summoned Vibulenus and Percennius and ordered them to be put to death. The common account is that they were buried in the general’s tent, though according to some their bodies were flung outside the entrenchments for all to see.
Search was then made for all the chief mutineers. Some as they roamed outside the camp were cut down by the centurions or by soldiers of the praetorian cohorts. Some even the companies gave up in proof of their loyalty. The men’s troubles were increased by an early winter with continuous storms so violent that they could not go beyond their tents or meet together or keep the standards in their places, from which they were perpetually tom by hurricane and rain. And there still lingered the dread of the divine wrath; nor was it without meaning, they thought, that, hostile to an impious host, the stars grew dim and storms burst over them. Their only relief from misery was to quit an ill-omened and polluted camp, and, having purged themselves of their guilt, to betake themselves again every one to his winterquarters. First the eighth, then the fifteenth legion returned; the ninth cried again and again that they ought to wait for the letter from Tiberius, but soon finding themselves isolated by the departure of the rest, they voluntarily forestalled their inevitable fate. Drusus, without awaiting the envoys’ return, as for the present all was quiet, went back to Rome.
About the same time, from the same causes, the legions of Germany rose in mutiny, with a fury proportioned to their greater numbers, in the confident hope that Germanicus Caesar would not be able to endure another’s supremacy and offer himself to the legions, whose strength would carry everything before it. There were two armies on the bank of the Rhine; that named the upper army had Caius Silius for general; the lower was under the charge of Aulus Caecina. The supreme direction rested with Germanicus, then busily employed in conducting the assessment of Gaul. The troops under the control of Silius, with minds yet in suspense, watched the issue of mutiny elsewhere; but the soldiers of the lower army fell into a frenzy, which had its beginning in the men of the twenty-first and fifth legions, and into which the first and twentieth were also drawn. For they were all quartered in the same summer-camp, in the territory of the Ubii, enjoying ease or having only light on hearing of the death of Augustus, a rabble of city slaves, who had been enlisted under a recent levy at Rome, habituated to laxity and impatient of hardship, filled the ignorant minds of the other soldiers with notions that the time had come when the veteran might demand a timely discharge, the young, more liberal pay, all, an end of their miseries, and vengeance on the cruelty of centurions.
It was not one alone who spoke thus, as did Percennius among the legions of Pannonia, nor was it in the ears of trembling soldiers, who looked with apprehension to other and mightier armies, but there was sedition in many a face and voice. “The Roman world,” they said, was in their hand; their victories aggrandised the State; it was from them that emperors received their titles.”
Nor did their commander check them. Indeed, the blind rage of so many had robbed him of his resolution., In a sudden frenzy they rushed with drawn swords on the centurions, the immemorial object of the soldiers’ resentment and the first cause of savage fury. They threw them to the earth and beat them sorely, sixty to one, so as to correspond with the number of centurions. Then tearing them from the ground, mangled, and some lifeless, they flung them outside the entrenchments or into the river Rhine. One Septimius, who fled to the tribunal and was grovelling at Caecina’s feet, was persistently demanded till he was given up to destruction. Cassius Chaerea, who won for himself a memory with posterity by the murder of Caius Caesar, being then a youth of high spirit, cleared a passage with his sword through the armed and opposing throng. Neither tribune nor camp-prefect maintained authority any longer. Patrols, sentries, and whatever else the needs of the time required, were distributed by the men themselves. To those who could guess the temper of soldiers with some penetration, the strongest symptom of a wide-spread and intractable commotion, was the fact that, instead of being divided or instigated by a few persons, they were unanimous in their fury and equally unanimous in their composure, with so uniform a consistency that one would have thought them to be under command.
Meantime Germanicus, while, as I have related, he was collecting the taxes of Gaul, received news of the death of Augustus. He was married to the granddaughter of Augustus, Agrippina, by whom he had several children, and though he was himself the son of Drusus, brother of Tiberius, and grandson of Augusta, he was troubled by the secret hatred of his uncle and grandmother, the motives for which were the more venomous because unjust. For the memory of Drusus was held in honour by the Roman people, and they believed that had he obtained empire, he would have restored freedom. Hence they regarded Germanicus with favour and with the same hope. He was indeed a young man of unaspiring temper, and of wonderful kindliness, contrasting strongly with the proud and mysterious reserve that marked the conversation and the features of Tiberius. Then, there were feminine jealousies, Livia feeling a stepmother’s bitterness towards Agrippina, and Agrippina herself too being rather excitable, only her purity and love of her husband gave a right direction to her otherwise imperious disposition.
But the nearer Germanicus was to the highest hope, the more laboriously did he exert himself for Tiberius, and he made the neighbouring Sequani and all the Belgic states swear obedience to him. On hearing of the mutiny in the legions, he instantly went to the spot, and met them outside the camp, eyes fixed on the ground, and seemingly repentant. As soon as he entered the entrenchments, confused murmurs became audible. Some men, seizing his hand under pretence of kissing it, thrust his fingers into their mouths, that he might touch their toothless gums; others showed him their limbs bowed with age. He ordered the throng which stood near him, as it seemed a promiscuous gathering, to separate itself into its military companies. They replied that they would hear better as they were. The standards were then to be advanced, so that thus at least the cohorts might be distinguished. The soldiers obeyed reluctantly. Then beginning with a reverent mention of Augustus, he passed on to the victories and triumphs of Tiberius, dwelling with especial praise on his glorious achievements with those legions in Germany. Next, he extolled the unity of Italy, the loyalty of Gaul, the entire absence of turbulence or strife. He was heard in silence or with but a slight murmur.
As soon as he touched on the mutiny and asked what had become of soldierly obedience, of the glory of ancient discipline, whither they had driven their tribunes and centurions, they all bared their bodies and taunted him with the scars of their wounds and the marks of the lash. And then with confused exclamations they spoke bitterly of the prices of exemptions, of their scanty pay, of the severity of their tasks, with special mention of the entrenchment, the fosse, the conveyance of fodder, building-timber, firewood, and whatever else had to be procured from necessity, or as a check on idleness in the camp. The fiercest clamour arose from the veteran soldiers, who, as they counted their thirty campaigns or more, implored him to relieve worn-out men, and not let them die under the same hardships, but have an end of such harassing service, and repose without beggary. Some even claimed the legacy of the Divine Augustus, with words of good omen for Germanicus, and, should he wish for empire, they showed themselves abundantly willing. Thereupon, as though he were contracting the pollution of guilt, he leapt impetuously from the tribunal. The men opposed his departure with their weapons, threatening him repeatedly if he would not go back. But Germanicus protesting that he would die rather than cast off his loyalty, plucked his sword from his side, raised it aloft and was plunging it into his breast, when those nearest him seized his hand and held it by force. The remotest and most densely crowded part of the throng, and, what almost passes belief, some, who came close up to him, urged him to strike the blow, and a soldier, by name Calusidius, offered him a drawn sword, saying that it was sharper than his own. Even in their fury, this seemed to them a savage act and one of evil precedent, and there was a pause during which Caesar’s friends hurried him into his tent.
There they took counsel how to heal matters. For news was also brought that the soldiers were preparing the despatch of envoys who were to draw the upper army into their cause; that the capital of the Ubii was marked out for destruction, and that hands with the stain of plunder on them would soon be daring enough for the pillage of Gaul. The alarm was heightened by the knowledge that the enemy was aware of the Roman mutiny, and would certainly attack if the Rhine bank were undefended. Yet if the auxiliary troops and allies were to be armed against the retiring legions, civil war was in fact begun. Severity would be dangerous; profuse liberality would be scandalous. Whether all or nothing were conceded to the soldiery, the State was equally in jeopardy.
Accordingly, having weighed their plans one against each other, they decided that a letter should be written in the prince’s name, to the effect that full discharge was granted to those who had served in twenty campaigns; that there was a conditional release for those who had served sixteen, and that they were to be retained under a standard with immunity from everything except actually keeping off the enemy; that the legacies which they had asked, were to be paid and doubled.
The soldiers perceived that all this was invented for the occasion, and instantly pressed their demands. The discharge from service was quickly arranged by the tribunes. Payment was put off till they reached their respective winterquarters. The men of the fifth and twenty-first legions refused to go till in the summer-camp where they stood the money was made up out of the purses of Germanicus himself and his friends, and paid in full. The first and twentieth legions were led back by their officer Caecina to the canton of the Ubii, marching in disgrace, since sums of money which had been extorted from the general were carried among the eagles and standards. Germanicus went to the Upper Army, and the second, thirteenth, and sixteenth legions, without any delay, accepted from him the oath of allegiance. The fourteenth hesitated a little, but their money and the discharge were offered even without their demanding it.
Meanwhile there was an outbreak among the Chauci, begun by some veterans of the mutinous legions on garrison duty. They were quelled for a time by the instant execution of two soldiers. Such was the order of Mennius, the camp-prefect, more as a salutary warning than as a legal act. Then, when the commotion increased, he fled and having been discovered, as his hiding place was now unsafe, he borrowed a resource from audacity. “It was not,” he told them, “the camp-prefect, it was Germanicus, their general, it was Tiberius, their emperor, whom they were insulting.” At the same moment, overawing all resistance, he seized the standard, faced round towards the river-bank, and exclaiming that whoever left the ranks, he would hold as a deserter, he led them back into their winter-quarters, disaffected indeed, but cowed.
Meanwhile envoys from the Senate had an interview with Germanicus, who had now returned, at the Altar of the Ubii. Two legions, the first and twentieth, with veterans discharged and serving under a standard, were there in winter-quarters. In the bewilderment of terror and conscious guilt they were penetrated by an apprehension that persons had come at the Senate’s orders to cancel the concessions they had extorted by mutiny. And as it is the way with a mob to fix any charge, however groundless, on some particular person, they reproached Manatius Plancus, an ex-consul and the chief envoy, with being the author of the Senate’s decree. At midnight they began to demand the imperial standard kept in Germanicus’s quarters, and having rushed together to the entrance, burst the door, dragged Caesar from his bed, and forced him by menaces of death to give up the standard. Then roaming through the camp-streets, they met the envoys, who on hearing of the tumult were hastening to Germanicus. They loaded them with insults, and were on the point of murdering them, Plancus especially, whose high rank had deterred him from flight. In his peril he found safety only in the camp of the first legion. There clasping the standards and the eagle, he sought to protect himself under their sanctity. And had not the eagle-bearer, Calpurnius, saved him from the worst violence, the blood of an envoy of the Roman people, an occurrence rare even among our foes, would in a Roman camp have stained the altars of the gods.
At last, with the light of day, when the general and the soldiers and the whole affair were clearly recognised, Germanicus entered the camp, ordered Plancus to be conducted to him, and received him on the tribunal. He then upbraided them with their fatal infatuation, revived not so much by the anger of the soldiers as by that of heaven, and explained the reasons of the envoys’ arrival. On the rights of ambassadors, on the dreadful and undeserved peril of Plancus, and also on the disgrace into which the legion had brought itself, he dwelt with the eloquence of pity, and while the throng was confounded rather than appeased, he dismissed the envoys with an escort of auxiliary cavalry.
Amid the alarm all condemned Germanicus for not going to the Upper Army, where he might find obedience and help against the rebels. “Enough and more than enough blunders,” they said, “had been made by granting discharges and money, indeed, by conciliatory measures. Even if Germanicus held his own life cheap, why should he keep a little son and a pregnant wife among madmen who outraged every human right? Let these, at least, be restored safely to their grandsire and to the State.”
When his wife spurned the notion, protesting that she was a descendant of the Divine Augustus and could face peril with no degenerate spirit, he at last embraced her and the son of their love with many tears, and after long delay compelled her to depart. Slowly moved along a pitiable procession of women, a general’s fugitive wife with a little son in her bosom, her friends’ wives weeping round her, as with her they were dragging themselves from the camp. Not less sorrowful were those who remained.
There was no appearance of the triumphant general about Germanicus, and he seemed to be in a conquered city rather than in his own camp, while groans and wailings attracted the ears and looks even of the soldiers. They came out of their tents, asking “what was that mournful sound? What meant the sad sight? Here were ladies of rank, not a centurion to escort them, not a soldier, no sign of a prince’s wife, none of the usual retinue. Could they be going to the Treveri, to be subjects of the foreigner?” Then they felt shame and pity, and remembered his father Agrippa, her grandfather Augustus, her father-in-law Drusus, her own glory as a mother of children, her noble purity. And there was her little child too, born in the camp, brought up amid the tents of the legions, whom they used to call in soldiers’ fashion, Caligula, because he often wore the shoe so called, to win the men’s goodwill. But nothing moved them so much as jealousy towards the Treveri. They entreated, stopped the way, that Agrippina might return and remain, some running to meet her, while most of them went back to Germanicus. He, with a grief and anger that were yet fresh, thus began to address the throng around him —
“Neither wife nor son are dearer to me than my father and the State. But he will surely have the protection of his own majesty, the empire of Rome that of our other armies. My wife and children whom, were it a question of your glory, I would willingly expose to destruction, I now remove to a distance from your fury, so that whatever wickedness is thereby threatened, may be expiated by my blood only, and that you may not be made more guilty by the slaughter of a great-grandson of Augustus, and the murder of a daughter-in-law of Tiberius. For what have you not dared, what have you not profaned during these days? What name shall I give to this gathering? Am I to call you soldiers, you who have beset with entrenchments and arms your general’s son, or citizens, when you have trampled under foot the authority of the Senate? Even the rights of public enemies, the sacred character of the ambassador, and the law of nations have been violated by you. The Divine Julius once quelled an army’s mutiny with a single word by calling those who were renouncing their military obedience ‘citizens.’ The Divine Augustus cowed the legions who had fought at Actium with one look of his face. Though I am not yet what they were, still, descended as I am from them, it would be a strange and unworthy thing should I be spurned by the soldiery of Spain or Syria. First and twentieth legions, you who received your standards from Tiberius, you, men of the twentieth who have shared with me so many battles and have been enriched with so many rewards, is not this a fine gratitude with which you are repaying your general? Are these the tidings which I shall have to carry to my father when he hears only joyful intelligence from our other provinces, that his own recruits, his own veterans are not satisfied with discharge or pay; that here only centurions are murdered, tribunes driven away, envoys imprisoned, camps and rivers stained with blood, while I am myself dragging on a precarious existence amid those who hate me?
“Why, on the first day of our meeting, why did you, my friends, wrest from me, in your blindness, the steel which I was preparing to plunge into my breast? Better and more loving was the act of the man who offered me the sword. At any rate I should have perished before I was as yet conscious of all the disgraces of my army, while you would have chosen a general who though he might allow my death to pass unpunished would avenge the death of Varus and his three legions. Never indeed may heaven suffer the Belgae, though they proffer their aid, to have the glory and honour of having rescued the name of Rome and quelled the tribes of Germany. It is thy spirit, Divine Augustus, now received into heaven, thine image, father Drusus, and the remembrance of thee, which, with these same soldiers who are now stimulated by shame and ambition, should wipe out this blot and turn the wrath of civil strife to the destruction of the foe. You too, in whose faces and in whose hearts I perceive a change, if only you restore to the Senate their envoys, to the emperor his due allegiance, to myself my wife and son, do you stand aloof from pollution and separate the mutinous from among you. This will be a pledge of your repentance, a guarantee of your loyalty.”
Thereupon, as suppliants confessing that his reproaches were true, they implored him to punish the guilty, pardon those who had erred, and lead them against the enemy. And he was to recall his wife, to let the nursling of the legions return and not be handed over as a hostage to the Gauls. As to Agrippina’s return, he made the excuse of her approaching confinement and of winter. His son, he said, would come, and the rest they might settle themselves. Away they hurried hither and thither, altered men, and dragged the chief mutineers in chains to Caius Caetronius commander of the first legion, who tried and punished them one by one in the following fashion. In front of the throng stood the legions with drawn swords. Each accused man was on a raised platform and was pointed out by a tribune. If they shouted out that he was guilty, he was thrown headlong and cut to pieces. The soldiers gloated over the bloodshed as though it gave them absolution. Nor did Caesar check them, seeing that without any order from himself the same men were responsible for all the cruelty and all the odium of the deed.
The example was followed by the veterans, who were soon afterwards sent into Raetia, nominally to defend the province against a threatened invasion of the Suevi but really that they might tear themselves from a camp stamped with the horror of a dreadful remedy no less than with the memory of guilt. Then the general revised the list of centurions. Each, at his summons, stated his name, his rank, his birthplace, the number of his campaigns, what brave deeds he had done in battle, his military rewards, if any. If the tribunes and the legion commended his energy and good behaviour, he retained his rank; where they unanimously charged him with rapacity or cruelty, he was dismissed the service.
Quiet being thus restored for the present, a no less formidable difficulty remained through the turbulence of the fifth and twenty-first legions, who were in winter quarters sixty miles away at Old Camp, as the place was called. These, in fact, had been the first to begin the mutiny, and the most atrocious deeds had been committed by their hands. Unawed by the punishment of their comrades, and unmoved by their contrition, they still retained their resentment. Caesar accordingly proposed to send an armed fleet with some of our allies down the Rhine, resolved to make war on them should they reject his authority.
At Rome, meanwhile, when the result of affairs in Illyrium was not yet known, and men had heard of the commotion among the German legions, the citizens in alarm reproached Tiberius for the hypocritical irresolution with which he was befooling the senate and the people, feeble and disarmed as they were, while the soldiery were all the time in revolt, and could not be quelled by the yet imperfectly-matured authority of two striplings. “He ought to have gone himself and confronted with his imperial majesty those who would have soon yielded, when they once saw a sovereign of long experience, who was the supreme dispenser of rigour or of bounty. Could Augustus, with the feebleness of age on him, so often visit Germany, and is Tiberius, in the vigour of life, to sit in the Senate and criticise its members’ words? He had taken good care that there should be slavery at Rome; he should now apply some soothing medicine to the spirit of soldiers, that they might be willing to endure peace.”
Notwithstanding these remonstrances, it was the inflexible purpose of Tiberius not to quit the head-quarters of empire or to imperil himself and the State. Indeed, many conflicting thoughts troubled him. The army in Germany was the stronger; that in Pannonia the nearer; the first was supported by all the strength of Gaul; the latter menaced Italy. Which was he to prefer, without the fear that those whom he slighted would be infuriated by the affront? But his sons might alike visit both, and not compromise the imperial dignity, which inspired the greatest awe at a distance. There was also an excuse for mere youths referring some matters to their father, with the possibility that he could conciliate or crush those who resisted Germanicus or Drusus. What resource remained, if they despised the emperor? However, as if on the eve of departure, he selected his attendants, provided his camp-equipage, and prepared a fleet; then winter and matters of business were the various pretexts with which he amused, first, sensible men, then the populace, last, and longest of all, the provinces.
Germanicus meantime, though he had concentrated his army and prepared vengeance against the mutineers, thought that he ought still to allow them an interval, in case they might, with the late warning before them, regard their safety. He sent a despatch to Caecina, which said that he was on the way with a strong force, and that, unless they forestalled his arrival by the execution of the guilty, he would resort to an indiscriminate massacre. Caecina read the letter confidentially to the eagle and standardbearers, and to all in the camp who were least tainted by disloyalty, and urged them to save the whole army from disgrace, and themselves from destruction. “In peace,” he said, “the merits of a man’s case are carefully weighed; when war bursts on us, innocent and guilty alike perish.”
Upon this, they sounded those whom they thought best for their purpose, and when they saw that a majority of their legions remained loyal, at the commander’s suggestion they fixed a time for falling with the sword on all the vilest and foremost of the mutineers. Then, at a mutually given signal, they rushed into the tents, and butchered the unsuspecting men, none but those in the secret knowing what was the beginning or what was to be the end of the slaughter.
The scene was a contrast to all civil wars which have ever occurred. It was not in battle, it was not from opposing camps, it was from those same dwellings where day saw them at their common meals, night resting from labour, that they divided themselves into two factions, and showered on each other their missiles. Uproar, wounds, bloodshed, were everywhere visible; the cause was a mystery. All else was at the disposal of chance. Even some loyal men were slain, for, on its being once understood who were the objects of fury, some of the worst mutineers too had seized on weapons. Neither commander nor tribune was present to control them; the men were allowed license and vengeance to their heart’s content. Soon afterwards Germanicus entered the camp, and exclaiming with a flood of tears, that this was destruction rather than remedy, ordered the bodies to be burnt.
Even then their savage spirit was seized with desire to march against the enemy, as an atonement for their frenzy, and it was felt that the shades of their fellow-soldiers could be appeased only by exposing such impious breasts to honourable scars. Caesar followed up the enthusiasm of the men, and having bridged over the Rhine, he sent across it 12,000 from the legions, with six-and-twenty allied cohorts, and eight squadrons of cavalry, whose discipline had been without a stain during the mutiny.
There was exultation among the Germans, not far off, as long as we were detained by the public mourning for the loss of Augustus, and then by our dissensions. But the Roman general in a forced march, cut through the Caesian forest and the barrier which had been begun by Tiberius, and pitched his camp on this barrier, his front and rear being defended by intrenchments, his flanks by timber barricades. He then penetrated some forest passes but little known, and, as there were two routes, he deliberated whether he should pursue the short and ordinary route, or that which was more difficult unexplored, and consequently unguarded by the enemy. He chose the longer way, and hurried on every remaining preparation, for his scouts had brought word that among the Germans it was a night of festivity, with games, and one of their grand banquets. Caecina had orders to advance with some light cohorts, and to clear away any obstructions from the woods. The legions followed at a moderate interval. They were helped by a night of bright starlight, reached the villages of the Marsi, and threw their pickets round the enemy, who even then were stretched on beds or at their tables, without the least fear, or any sentries before their camp, so complete was their carelessness and disorder; and of war indeed there was no apprehension. Peace it certainly was not — merely the languid and heedless ease of half-intoxicated people.
Caesar, to spread devastation widely, divided his eager legions into four columns, and ravaged a space of fifty miles with fire and sword. Neither sex nor age moved his compassion. Everything, sacred or profane, the temple too of Tamfana, as they called it, the special resort of all those tribes, was levelled to the ground. There was not a wound among our soldiers, who cut down a half-asleep, an unarmed, or a straggling foe. The Bructeri, Tubantes, and Usipetes, were roused by this slaughter, and they beset the forest passes through which the army had to return. The general knew this, and he marched, prepared both to advance and to fight. Part of the cavalry, and some of the auxiliary cohorts led the van; then came the first legion, and, with the baggage in the centre, the men of the twenty-first closed up the left, those of the fifth, the right flank. The twentieth legion secured the rear, and, next, were the rest of the allies.
Meanwhile the enemy moved not till the army began to defile in column through the woods, then made slight skirmishing attacks on its flanks and van, and with his whole force charged the rear. The light cohorts were thrown into confusion by the dense masses of the Germans, when Caesar rode up to the men of the twentieth legion, and in a loud voice exclaimed that this was the time for wiping out the mutiny. “Advance,” he said, “and hasten to turn your guilt into glory.” This fired their courage, and at a single dash they broke through the enemy, and drove him back with great slaughter into the open country. At the same moment the troops of the van emerged from the woods and intrenched a camp. After this their march was uninterrupted, and the soldiery, with the confidence of recent success, and forgetful of the past, were placed in winter-quarters.
The news was a source of joy and also of anxiety to Tiberius. He rejoiced that the mutiny was crushed, but the fact that Germanicus had won the soldiers’ favour by lavishing money, and promptly granting the discharge, as well as his fame as a soldier, annoyed him. Still, he brought his achievements under the notice of the Senate, and spoke much of his greatness in language elaborated for effect, more so than could be believed to come from his inmost heart. He bestowed a briefer praise on Drusus, and on the termination of the disturbance in Illyricum, but he was more earnest, and his speech more hearty. And he confirmed, too, in the armies of Pannonia all the concessions of Germanicus.
That same year Julia ended her days. For her profligacy she had formerly been confined by her father Augustus in the island of Pandateria, and then in the town of the Regini on the shores of the straits of Sicily. She had been the wife of Tiberius while Caius and Lucius Caesar were in their glory, and had disdained him as an unequal match. This was Tiberius’s special reason for retiring to Rhodes. When he obtained the empire, he left her in banishment and disgrace, deprived of all hope after the murder of Postumus Agrippa, and let her perish by a lingering death of destitution, with the idea that an obscurity would hang over her end from the length of her exile. He had a like motive for cruel vengeance on Sempronius Gracchus, a man of noble family, of shrewd understanding, and a perverse eloquence, who had seduced this same Julia when she was the wife of Marcus Agrippa. And this was not the end of the intrigue. When she had been handed over to Tiberius, her persistent paramour inflamed her with disobedience and hatred towards her husband; and a letter which Julia wrote to her father, Augustus, inveighing against Tiberius, was supposed to be the composition of Gracchus. He was accordingly banished to Cercina, where he endured an exile of fourteen years. Then the soldiers who were sent to slay him, found him on a promontory, expecting no good. On their arrival, he begged a brief interval in which to give by letter his last instructions to his wife Alliaria, and then offered his neck to the executioners, dying with a courage not unworthy of the Sempronian name, which his degenerate life had dishonoured. Some have related that these soldiers were not sent from Rome, but by Lucius Asprenas, proconsul of Africa, on the authority of Tiberius, who had vainly hoped that the infamy of the murder might be shifted on Asprenas.
The same year witnessed the establishment of religious ceremonies in a new priesthood of the brotherhood of the Augustales, just as in former days Titus Tatius, to retain the rites of the Sabines, had instituted the Titian brotherhood. Twenty-one were chosen by lot from the chief men of the State; Tiberius, Drusus, Claudius, and Germanicus, were added to the number. The Augustal game’s which were then inaugurated, were disturbed by quarrels arising out of rivalry between the actors. Augustus had shown indulgence to the entertainment by way of humouring Maecenas’s extravagant passion for Bathyllus, nor did he himself dislike such amusements, and he thought it citizenlike to mingle in the pleasures of the populace. Very different was the tendency of Tiberius’s character. But a people so many years indulgently treated, he did not yet venture to put under harsher control.
In the consulship of Drusus Caesar and Caius Norbanus, Germanicus had a triumph decreed him, though war still lasted. And though it was for the summer campaign that he was most vigorously preparing, he anticipated it by a sudden inroad on the Chatti in the beginning of spring. There had, in fact, sprung up a hope of the enemy being divided between Arminius and Segestes, famous, respectively, for treachery and loyalty towards us. Arminius was the disturber of Germany. Segestes often revealed the fact that a rebellion was being organized, more especially at that last banquet after which they rushed to arms, and he urged Varus to arrest himself and Arminius and all the other chiefs, assuring him that the people would attempt nothing if the leading men were removed, and that he would then have an opportunity of sifting accusations and distinguishing the innocent. But Varus fell by fate and by the sword of Arminius, with whom Segestes, though dragged into war by the unanimous voice of the nation, continued to be at feud, his resentment being heightened by personal motives, as Arminius had married his daughter who was betrothed to another. With a son-in-law detested, and fathers-in-law also at enmity, what are bonds of love between united hearts became with bitter foes incentives to fury.
Germanicus accordingly gave Caecina four legions, five thousand auxiliaries, with some hastily raised levies from the Germans dwelling on the left bank of the Rhine. He was himself at the head of an equal number of legions and twice as many allies. Having established a fort on the site of his father’s entrenchments on Mount Taunus he hurried his troops in quick marching order against the Chatti, leaving Lucius Apronius to direct works connected with roads and bridges. With a dry season and comparatively shallow streams, a rare circumstance in that climate, he had accomplished, without obstruction, rapid march, and he feared for his return heavy rains and swollen rivers. But so suddenly did he come on the Chatti that all the helpless from age or sex were at once captured or slaughtered. Their able-bodied men had swum across the river Adrana, and were trying to keep back the Romans as they were commencing a bridge. Subsequently they were driven back by missiles and arrows, and having in vain attempted for peace, some took refuge with Germanicus, while the rest leaving their cantons and villages dispersed themselves in their forests.
After burning Mattium, the capital of the tribe, and ravaging the open country, Germanicus marched back towards the Rhine, the enemy not daring to harass the rear of the retiring army, which was his usual practice whenever he fell back by way of stratagem rather than from panic. It had been the intention of the Cherusci to help the Chatti; but Caecina thoroughly cowed them, carrying his arms everywhere, and the Marsi who ventured to engage him, he repulsed in a successful battle.
Not long after envoys came from Segestes, imploring aid against the violence of his fellow-countrymen, by whom he was hemmed in, and with whom Arminius had greater influence, because he counselled war. For with barbarians, the more eager a man’s daring, the more does he inspire confidence, and the more highly is he esteemed in times of revolution. With the envoys Segestes had associated his son, by name Segimundus, but the youth hung back from a consciousness of guilt. For in the year of the revolt of Germany he had been appointed a priest at the altar of the Ubii, and had rent the sacred garlands, and fled to the rebels. Induced, however, to hope for mercy from Rome, he brought his father’s message; he was graciously received and sent with an escort to the Gallic bank of the Rhine.
It was now worth while for Germanicus to march back his army. A battle was fought against the besiegers and Segestes was rescued with a numerous band of kinsfolk and dependents. In the number were some women of rank; among them, the wife of Arminius, who was also the daughter of Segestes, but who exhibited the spirit of her husband rather than of her father, subdued neither to tears nor to the tones of a suppliant, her hands tightly clasped within her bosom, and eyes which dwelt on her hope of offspring. The spoils also taken in the defeat of Varus were brought in, having been given as plunder to many of those who were then being surrendered.
Segestes too was there in person, a stately figure, fearless in the remembrance of having been a faithful ally. His speech was to this effect. “This is not my first day of steadfast loyalty towards the Roman people. From the time that the Divine Augustus gave me the citizenship, I have chosen my friends and foes with an eye to your advantage, not from hatred of my fatherland (for traitors are detested even by those whom they prefer) but because I held that Romans and Germans have the same interests, and that peace is better than war. And therefore I denounced to Varus, who then commanded your army, Arminius, the ravisher of my daughter, the violater of your treaty. I was put off by that dilatory general, and, as I found but little protection in the laws, I urged him to arrest myself, Arminius, and his accomplices. That night is my witness; would that it had been my last. What followed, may be deplored rather than defended. However, I threw Arminius into chains and I endured to have them put on myself by his partisans. And as soon as give opportunity, I show my preference for the old over the new, for peace over commotion, not to get a reward, but that I may clear myself from treachery and be at the same time a fit mediator for a German people, should they choose repentance rather than ruin, For the youth and error of my son I entreat forgiveness. As for my daughter, I admit that it is by compulsion she has been brought here. It will be for you to consider which fact weighs most with you, that she is with child by Arminius or that she owes her being to me.”
Caesar in a gracious reply promised safety to his children and kinsfolk and a home for himself in the old province. He then led back the army and received on the proposal of Tiberius the title of Imperator. The wife of Arminius gave birth to a male child; the boy, who was brought up at Ravenna, soon afterwards suffered an insult, which at the proper time I shall relate.
The report of the surrender and kind reception of Segestes, when generally known, was heard with hope or grief according as men shrank from war or desired it. Arminius, with his naturally furious temper, was driven to frenzy by the seizure of his wife and the foredooming to slavery of his wife’s unborn child. He flew hither and thither among the Cherusci, demanding “war against Segestes, war against Caesar.” And he refrained not from taunts. “Noble the father,” he would say, “mighty the general, brave the army which, with such strength, has carried off one weak woman. Before me, three legions, three commanders have fallen. Not by treachery, not against pregnant women, but openly against armed men do I wage war. There are still to be seen in the groves of Germany the Roman standards which I hung up to our country’s gods. Let Segestes dwell on the conquered bank; let him restore to his son his priestly office; one thing there is which Germans will never thoroughly excuse, their having seen between the Elbe and the Rhine the Roman rods, axes, and toga. Other nations in their ignorance of Roman rule, have no experience of punishments, know nothing of tributes, and, as we have shaken them off, as the great Augustus, ranked among dieties, and his chosen heir Tiberius, departed from us, baffled, let us not quail before an inexperienced stripling, before a mutinous army. If you prefer your fatherland, your ancestors, your ancient life to tyrants and to new colonies, follow as your leader Arminius to glory and to freedom rather than Segestes to ignominious servitude.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Of the legions which he had conveyed by ship, Germanicus gave the second and fourteenth to Publius Vitellius, to be marched by land, so that the fleet might sail more easily over a sea full of shoals, or take the ground more lightly at the ebb-tide. Vitellius at first pursued his route without interruption, having a dry shore, or the waves coming in gently. After a while, through the force of the north wind and the equinoctial season, when the sea swells to its highest, his army was driven and tossed hither and thither. The country too was flooded; sea, shore, fields presented one aspect, nor could the treacherous quicksands be distinguished from solid ground or shallows from deep water. Men were swept away by the waves or sucked under by eddies; beasts of burden, baggage, lifeless bodies floated about and blocked their way. The companies were mingled in confusion, now with the breast, now with the head only above water, sometimes losing their footing and parted from their comrades or drowned. The voice of mutual encouragement availed not against the adverse force of the waves. There was nothing to distinguish the brave from the coward, the prudent from the careless, forethought from chance; the same strong power swept everything before it. At last Vitellius struggled out to higher ground and led his men up to it. There they passed the night, without necessary food, without fire, many of them with bare or bruised limbs, in a plight as pitiable as that of men besieged by an enemy. For such, at least, have the opportunity of a glorious death, while here was destruction without honour. Daylight restored land to their sight, and they pushed their way to the river Visurgis, where Caesar had arrived with the fleet. The legions then embarked, while a rumour was flying about that they were drowned. Nor was there a belief in their safety till they saw Caesar and the army returned.
By this time Stertinius, who had been despatched to receive the surrender of Segimerus, brother of Segestes, had conducted the chief, together with his son, to the canton of the Ubii. Both were pardoned, Segimerus readily, the son with some hesitation, because it was said that he had insulted the corpse of Quintilius Varus. Meanwhile Gaul, Spain, and Italy vied in repairing the losses of the army, offering whatever they had at hand, arms, horses, gold. Germanicus having praised their zeal, took only for the war their arms and horses, and relieved the soldiers out of his own purse. And that he might also soften the remembrance of the disaster by kindness, he went round to the wounded, applauded the feats of soldier after soldier, examined their wounds, raised the hopes of one, the ambition of another, and the spirits of all by his encouragement and interest, thus strengthening their ardour for himself and for battle.
That year triumphal honours were decreed to Aulus Caecina, Lucius Apronius, Caius Silius for their achievements under Germanicus. The title of “father of his country,” which the people had so often thrust on him, Tiberius refused, nor would he allow obedience to be sworn to his enactments, though the Senate voted it, for he said repeatedly that all human things were uncertain, and that the more he had obtained, the more precarious was his position. But he did not thereby create a belief in his patriotism, for he had revived the law of treason, the name of which indeed was known in ancient times, though other matters came under its jurisdiction, such as the betrayal of an army, or seditious stirring up of the people, or, in short, any corrupt act by which a man had impaired “the majesty of the people of Rome.” Deeds only were liable to accusation; words went unpunished. It was Augustus who first, under colour of this law, applied legal inquiry to libellous writings provoked, as he had been, by the licentious freedom with which Cassius Severus had defamed men and women of distinction in his insulting satires. Soon afterwards, Tiberius, when consulted by Pompeius Macer, the praetor, as to whether prosecutions for treason should be revived, replied that the laws must be enforced. He too had been exasperated by the publication of verses of uncertain authorship, pointed at his cruelty, his arrogance, and his dissensions with his mother.
It will not be uninteresting if I relate in the cases of Falanius and Rubrius, Roman knights of moderate fortune, the first experiments at such accusations, in order to explain the origin of a most terrible scourge, how by Tiberius’s cunning it crept in among us, how subsequently it was checked, finally, how it burst into flame and consumed everything. Against Falanius it was alleged by his accuser that he had admitted among the votaries of Augustus, who in every great house were associated into a kind of brotherhood, one Cassius, a buffoon of infamous life, and that he had also in selling his gardens included in the sale a statue of Augustus. Against Rubrius the charge was that he had violated by perjury the divinity of Augustus. When this was known to Tiberius, he wrote to the consuls “that his father had not had a place in heaven decreed to him, that the honour might be turned to the destruction of the citizens. Cassius, the actor, with men of the same profession, used to take part in the games which had been consecrated by his mother to the memory of Augustus. Nor was it contrary to the religion of the State for the emperor’s image, like those of other deities, to be added to a sale of gardens and houses. As to the oath, the thing ought to be considered as if the man had deceived Jupiter. Wrongs done to the gods were the gods’ concern.”
Not long afterwards, Granius Marcellus, proconsul of Bithynia, was accused of treason by his quaestor, Caepio Crispinus, and the charge was supported by Romanus Hispo. Crispinus then entered on a line of life afterwards rendered notorious by the miseries of the age and men’s shamelessness. Needy, obscure, and restless, he wormed himself by stealthy informations into the confidence of a vindictive prince, and soon imperilled all the most distinguished citizens; and having thus gained influence with one, hatred from all besides, he left an example in following which beggars became wealthy, the insignificant, formidable, and brought ruin first on others, finally on themselves. He alleged against Marcellus that he had made some disrespectful remarks about Tiberius, a charge not to be evaded, inasmuch as the accuser selected the worst features of the emperor’s character and grounded his case on them. The things were true, and so were believed to have been said.
Hispo added that Marcellus had placed his own statue above those of the Caesars, and had set the bust of Tiberius on another statue from which he had struck off the head of Augustus. At this the emperor’s wrath blazed forth, and, breaking through his habitual silence, he exclaimed that in such a case he would himself too give his vote openly on oath, that the rest might be under the same obligation. There lingered even then a few signs of expiring freedom. And so Cneius Piso asked, “In what order will you vote, Caesar? If first, I shall know what to follow; if last, I fear that I may differ from you unwillingly.” Tiberius was deeply moved, and repenting of the outburst, all the more because of its thoughtlessness, he quietly allowed the accused to be acquitted of the charges of treason. As for the question of extortion, it was referred to a special commission.
Not satisfied with judicial proceedings in the Senate, the emperor would sit at one end of the Praetor’s tribunal, but so as not to displace him from the official seat. Many decisions were given in his presence, in opposition to improper influence and the solicitations of great men. This, though it promoted justice, ruined freedom. Pius Aurelius, for example, a senator, complained that the foundations of his house had been weakened by the pressure of a public road and aqueduct, and he appealed to the Senate for assistance. He was opposed by the praetors of the treasury, but the emperor helped him, and paid him the value of his house, for he liked to spend money on a good purpose, a virtue which he long retained, when he cast off all others. To Propertius Celer, an ex-praetor, who sought because of his indigence to be excused from his rank as a senator, he gave a million sesterces, having ascertained that he had inherited poverty. He bade others, who attempted the same, prove their case to the Senate, as from his love of strictness he was harsh even where he acted on right grounds. Consequently every one else preferred silence and poverty to confession and relief.
In the same year the Tiber, swollen by continuous rains, flooded the level portions of the city. Its subsidence was followed by a destruction of buildings and of life. Thereupon Asinius Gallus proposed to consult the Sibylline books. Tiberius refused, veiling in obscurity the divine as well as the human. However, the devising of means to confine the river was intrusted to Ateius Capito and Lucius Arruntius.
Achaia and Macedonia, on complaining of their burdens, were, it was decided, to be relieved for a time from proconsular government and to be transferred to the emperor. Drusus presided over a show of gladiators which he gave in his own name and in that of his brother Germanicus, for he gloated intensely over bloodshed, however cheap its victims. This was alarming to the populace, and his father had, it was said, rebuked him. Why Tiberius kept away from the spectacle was variously explained. According to some, it was his loathing of a crowd, according to others, his gloomy temper, and a fear of contrast with the gracious presence of Augustus. I cannot believe that he deliberately gave his son the opportunity of displaying his ferocity and provoking the people’s disgust, though even this was said.
Meanwhile the unruly tone of the theatre which first showed itself in the preceding year, broke out with worse violence, and some soldiers and a centurion, besides several of the populace, were killed, and the tribune of a praetorian cohort was wounded, while they were trying to stop insults to the magistrates and the strife of the mob. This disturbance was the subject of a debate in the Senate, and opinions were expressed in favour of the praetors having authority to scourge actors. Haterius Agrippa, tribune of the people, interposed his veto, and was sharply censured in a speech from Asinius Gallus, without a word from Tiberius, who liked to allow the Senate such shows of freedom. Still the interposition was successful, because Augustus had once pronounced that actors were exempt from the scourge, and it was not lawful for Tiberius to infringe his decisions. Many enactments were passed to fix the amount of their pay and to check the disorderly behaviour of their partisans. Of these the chief were that no Senator should enter the house of a pantomime player, that Roman knights should not crowd round them in the public streets, that they should exhibit themselves only in the theatre, and that the praetors should be empowered to punish with banishment any riotous conduct in the spectators.
A request from the Spaniards that they might erect a temple to Augustus in the colony of Tarraco was granted, and a precedent thus given for all the provinces. When the people of Rome asked for a remission of the one per cent. tax on all saleable commodities, Tiberius declared by edict “that the military exchequer depended on that branch of revenue, and, further, that the State was unequal to the burden, unless the twentieth year of service were to be that of the veteran’s discharge.” Thus the ill-advised results of the late mutiny, by which a limit of sixteen campaigns had been extorted, were cancelled for the future.
A question was then raised in the Senate by Arruntius and Ateius whether, in order to restrain the inundations of the Tiber, the rivers and lakes which swell its waters should be diverted from their courses. A hearing was given to embassies from the municipal towns and colonies, and the people of Florentia begged that the Clanis might not be turned out of its channel and made to flow into the Arnus, as that would bring ruin on themselves. Similar arguments were used by the inhabitants of Interamna. The most fruitful plains of Italy, they said, would be destroyed if the river Nar (for this was the plan proposed) were to be divided into several streams and overflow the country. Nor did the people of Reate remain silent. They remonstrated against the closing up of the Veline lake, where it empties itself into the Nar, “as it would burst in a flood on the entire neighbourhood. Nature had admirably provided for human interests in having assigned to rivers their mouths, their channels, and their limits, as well as their sources. Regard, too, must be paid to the different religions of the allies, who had dedicated sacred rites, groves, and altars to the rivers of their country. Tiber himself would be altogether unwilling to be deprived of his neighbour streams and to flow with less glory.” Either the entreaties of the colonies, or the difficulty of the work or superstitious motives prevailed, and they yielded to Piso’s opinion, who declared himself against any change.
Poppaeus Sabinus was continued in his government of the province of Moesia with the addition of Achaia and Macedonia. It was part of Tiberius’ character to prolong indefinitely military commands and to keep many men to the end of their life with the same armies and in the same administrations. Various motives have been assigned for this. Some say that, out of aversion to any fresh anxiety, he retained what he had once approved as a permanent arrangement; others, that he grudged to see many enjoying promotion. Some, again, think that though he had an acute intellect, his judgment was irresolute, for he did not seek out eminent merit, and yet he detested vice. From the best men he apprehended danger to himself, from the worst, disgrace to the State. He went so far at last in this irresolution, that he appointed to provinces men whom he did not mean to allow to leave Rome.
I can hardly venture on any positive statement about the consular elections, now held for the first time under this emperor, or, indeed, subsequently, so conflicting are the accounts we find not only in historians but in Tiberius’ own speeches. Sometimes he kept back the names of the candidates, describing their origin, their life and military career, so that it might be understood who they were. Occasionally even these hints were withheld, and, after urging them not to disturb the elections by canvassing, he would promise his own help towards the result. Generally he declared that only those had offered themselves to him as candidates whose names he had given to the consuls, and that others might offer themselves if they had confidence in their influence or merit. A plausible profession this in words, but really unmeaning and delusive, and the greater the disguise of freedom which marked it, the more cruel the enslavement into which it was soon to plunge us.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01