WHEN Vitellius was dead, the war had indeed come to an end, but peace had yet to begin. Sword in hand, throughout the capital, the conquerors hunted down the conquered with merciless hatred. The streets were choked with carnage, the squares and temples reeked with blood, for men were massacred everywhere as chance threw them in the way. Soon, as their license increased, they began to search for and drag forth hidden foes. Whenever they saw a man tall and young they cut him down, making no distinction between soldiers and civilians. But the ferocity, which in the first impulse of hatred could be gratified only by blood, soon passed into the greed of gain. They let nothing be kept secret, nothing be closed; Vitellianists, they pretended, might be thus concealed. Here was the first step to breaking open private houses; here, if resistance were made, a pretext for slaughter. The most needy of the populace and the most worthless of the slaves did not fail to come forward and betray their wealthy masters; others were denounced by friends. Everywhere were lamentations, and wailings, and all the miseries of a captured city, till the license of the Vitellianist and Othonianist soldiery, once so odious, was remembered with regret. The leaders of the party, so energetic in kindling civil strife, were incapable of checking the abuse of victory. In stirring up tumult and strife the worst men can do the most, but peace and quiet cannot be established without virtue.
Domitian had entered into possession of the title and residence of Caesar, but not yet applying himself to business, was playing the part of a son of the throne with debauchery and intrigue. The office of prefect of the Praetorian Guard was held by Arrius Varus, but the supreme power was in the hands of Primus Antonius, who carried off money and slaves from the establishment of the Emperor, as if they were the spoils of Cremona. The other generals, whose moderation or insignificance had shut them out from distinction in the war, had accordingly no share in its prizes. The country, terror-stricken and ready to acquiesce in servitude, urgently demanded that Lucius Vitellius with his cohorts should be intercepted on his way from Tarracina, and that the last sparks of war should be trodden out. The cavalry were sent on to Aricia, the main body of the legions halted on this side of Bovillae. Without hesitation Vitellius surrendered himself and his cohorts to the discretion of the conqueror, and the soldiers threw down their ill-starred arms in rage quite as much as in alarm. The long train of prisoners, closely guarded by armed men, passed through the capital. Not one of them wore the look of a suppliant; sullen and savage, they were unmoved by the shouts and jests of the insulting rabble. A few, who ventured to break away, were overpowered by the force that hemmed them in; the rest were thrown into prison. Not one of them uttered an unworthy word; even in disaster the honour of the soldier was preserved. After this Lucius Vitellius was executed. Equally vicious with his brother, he had yet shewn greater vigilance during that brother’s reign, and may be said, not so much to have shared his elevation, as to have been dragged down by his fall.
About the same time Lucilius Bassus was sent with some light cavalry to establish order in Campania, where the towns were still disturbed, but by mutual animosities rather than by any spirit of opposition to the new Emperor. The sight of the soldiery restored quiet, and the smaller colonies escaped unpunished. At Capua, however, the third legion was stationed to pass the winter, and the noble families suffered severely. Tarracina, on the other hand, received no relief; so much more inclined are we to requite an injury than an obligation. Gratitude is a burden, while there seems to be a profit in revenge. They were consoled by seeing the slave of Verginius Capito, whom I have mentioned as the betrayer of Tarracina, gibbeted in the very rings of knighthood, the gift of Vitellius, which they had seen him wear. At Rome the Senate, delighted and full of confident hope, decreed to Vespasian all the honours customarily bestowed on the Emperors. And indeed the civil war, which, beginning in Gaul and Spain, and afterwards drawing into the struggle first Germany and then Illyricum, had traversed Aegypt, Judaea, and Syria, every province, and every army, this war, now that the whole earth was, as it were, purged from guilt, seemed to have reached its close. Their alacrity was increased by a letter from Vespasian, written during the continuance of the war. Such indeed was its character at first sight; the writer, however, expressed himself as an Emperor, speaking modestly about himself, in admirable language about the State. There was no want of deference on the part of the Senate. On the Emperor and his son Titus the consulship was bestowed by decree; on Domitian the office of praetor with consular authority.
Mucianus had also forwarded to the Senate certain letters which furnished matter for talk. It was said, “Why, if he is a private citizen, does he speak like a public man? In a few days’ time he might have said the very same words in his place as a Senator. And even the invective against Vitellius comes too late, and is ungenerous; while certainly it is arrogance to the State and an insult to the Emperor to boast that he had the Imperial power in his hands, and made a present of it to Vespasian.” Their dislike, however, was concealed; their adulation was open enough. In most flattering language they voted a triumph to Mucianus, a triumph for a civil war, though the expedition against the Sarmatae was the pretext. On Antonius Primus were bestowed the insignia of consular rank, on Arrius Varus and Cornelius Fuscus praetorian honours. Then they remembered the Gods. It was determined that the Capitol should be restored. All these motions Valerius Asiaticus, consul elect, proposed. Most of the Senators signified their assent by their looks, or by raising the hand; but a few, who either held a distinguished rank, or had a practised talent for flattery, declared their acquiescence in studied speeches. When it came to the turn of Helvidius Priscus, praetor elect, to vote, he delivered an opinion, full of respect indeed to a worthy Emperor, and yet wholly free from insincerity; and he was strongly supported by the sympathies of the Senate. To Priscus indeed this day was in an especial manner the beginning of a great quarrel and a great renown.
As I have again happened to mention a man of whom I shall often have to speak, the subject seems to demand that I should give a brief account of his life and pursuits, and of his fortunes. Helvidius Priscus was a native of the town of Carecina in Italy, and was the son of one Cluvius, who had been a centurion of the first rank. In early youth he devoted his distinguished talents to the loftiest pursuits, not wishing, as do many, to cloak under an imposing name a life of indolence, but to be able to enter upon public life with a spirit fortified against the chances of fortune. He followed those teachers of philosophy who hold nothing to be good but what is honourable, nothing evil but what is base, and who refuse to count either among things good or evil, power, rank, or indeed any thing not belonging to the mind. While still holding the quaestorship, he was selected by Paetus Thrasea to be his son-in-law, and from the example of his father-in-law imbibed with peculiar eagerness a love of liberty. As a citizen and as a Senator, as a husband, as a son-in-law, as a friend, and in all the relations of life, he was ever the same, despising wealth, steadily tenacious of right, and undaunted by danger.
There were some who thought him too eager for fame, and indeed the desire of glory is the last infirmity cast off even by the wise. The fall of his father-in-law drove him into exile, but he returned when Galba mounted the throne, and proceeded to impeach Marcellus Eprius, who had been the informer against Thrasea. This retribution, as great as it was just, had divided the Senate into two parties; for, if Marcellus fell, a whole army of fellow culprits was struck down. At first there was a fierce struggle, as is proved by the great speeches delivered by both men. But afterwards, as the feelings of Galba were doubtful, and many Senators interceded, Priscus dropped the charge, amidst comments varying with the tempers of men, some praising his moderation, and others deploring a lack of courage. On the day, however, that the Senate was voting about the Imperial dignities of Vespasian, it had been resolved that envoys should be sent to the new Emperor. Hence arose a sharp altercation between Helvidius and Eprius. Priscus proposed that they should be chosen by name by the magistrates on oath, Marcellus demanded the ballot; and this had been the opinion expressed by the Consul elect.
It was the dread of personal humiliation that made Marcellus so earnest, for he feared that, if others were chosen, he should himself appear slighted. From an angry conversation they passed by degrees to long and bitter speeches. Helvidius asked, “Why should Marcellus be so afraid of the judgment of the magistrates? He has wealth and eloquence, which might make him superior to many, were he not oppressed by the consciousness of guilt. The chances of the ballot do not discriminate men’s characters; the voting and the judgment of the Senate were devised to reach the lives and reputations of individuals. It concerns the interests of the Commonwealth, it concerns the honour due to Vespasian, that he should be met by those whom the Senate counts to be peculiarly blameless, and who may fill the Emperor’s ear with honourable counsels. Vespasian was the friend of Thrasea, Soranus, and Sextius; and the accusers of these men, though it may not be expedient to punish them, ought not to be paraded before him. By this selection on the part of the Senate the Emperor will, so to speak, be advised whom he should mark with approval, and from whom he should shrink. There can be no more effectual instrument of good government than good friends. Let Marcellus be satisfied with having urged Nero to destroy so many innocent victims; let him enjoy the wages of his crimes and his impunity, but let him leave Vespasian to worthier advisers.”
Marcellus declared, “It is not my opinion that is assailed; the Consul elect has made a motion in accordance with old precedents, which directed the use of the ballot in the appointment of envoys, in order that there might be no room for intrigue or private animosities. Nothing has happened why customs of long standing should fall into disuse, or why the honour due to the Emperor should be turned into an insult to any man. All Senators are competent to pay their homage. What we have rather to avoid is this, that a mind unsettled by the novelty of power, and which will keenly watch the very looks and language of all, should be irritated by the obstinacy of certain persons. I do not forget the times in which I have been born, or the form of government which our fathers and grandfathers established. I may regard with admiration an earlier period, but I acquiesce in the present, and, while I pray for good Emperors, I can endure whomsoever we may have. It was not through my speech any more than it was through the judgment of the Senate that Thrasea fell. The savage temper of Nero amused itself under these forms, and I found the friendship of such a Prince as harassing as others found their exile. Finally, Helvidius may rival the Catos and the Bruti of old in constancy and courage; I am but one of the Senate which bows to the same yoke. Besides, I would advise Priscus not to climb higher than the throne, or to impose his counsels on Vespasian, an old man, who has won the honours of a triumph, and has two sons grown to manhood. For as the worst Emperors love an unlimited despotism, so the noblest like some check on liberty.” These speeches, which were delivered with much vehemence on both sides, were heard with much diversity of feeling. That party prevailed which preferred that the envoys should be taken by lot, as even the neutral section in the Senate exerted themselves to retain the old practice, while the more conspicuous members inclined to the same view, dreading jealousy, should the choice fall on themselves.
Another struggle ensued. The praetors of the Treasury (the Treasury was at this time managed by praetors) complained of the poverty of the State, and demanded a retrenchment of expenditure. The Consul elect, considering how great was the evil and how difficult the remedy, was for reserving the matter for the Emperor. Helvidius gave it as his opinion that measures should be taken at the discretion of the Senate. When the Consuls came to take the votes, Vulcatius Tertullinus, tribune of the people, put his veto on any resolution being adopted in so important a matter in the absence of the Emperor. Helvidius had moved that the Capitol should be restored at the public expense, and that Vespasian should give his aid. All the more moderate of the Senators let this opinion pass in silence, and in time forgot it; but there were some who remembered it.
Musonius Rufus then made a violent attack on Publius Celer, accusing him of having brought about the destruction of Barea Soranus by perjury. By this impeachment all the hatreds of the days of the informers seemed to be revived; but the accused person was so worthless and so guilty that he could not be protected. For indeed the memory of Soranus was held in reverence; Celer had been a professor of philosophy, and had then given evidence against Barea, thus betraying and profaning the friendship of which he claimed to be a teacher. The next day was fixed for the trial. But it was not of Musonius or Publius, it was of Priscus, of Marcellus, and his brother informers, that men were thinking, now that their hearts were once roused to vengeance.
While things were in this state, while there was division in the Senate, resentment among the conquered, no real authority in the conquerors, and in the country at large no laws and no Emperor, Mucianus entered the capital, and at once drew all power into his own hands. The influence of Primus Antonius and Varus Arrius was destroyed; for the irritation of Mucianus against them, though not revealed in his looks, was but ill-concealed, and the country, keen to discover such dislikes, had changed its tone and transferred its homage. He alone was canvassed and courted, and he, surrounding himself with armed men, and bargaining for palaces and gardens, ceased not, what with his magnificence, his proud bearing, and his guards, to grasp at the power, while he waived the titles of Empire. The murder of Calpurnius Galerianus caused the utmost consternation. He was a son of Caius Piso, and had done nothing, but a noble name and his own youthful beauty made him the theme of common talk; and while the country was still unquiet and delighted in novel topics, there were persons who associated him with idle rumours of Imperial honours. By order of Mucianus he was surrounded with a guard of soldiers. Lest his execution in the capital should excite too much notice, they conducted him to the fortieth milestone from Rome on the Appian Road, and there put him to death by opening his veins. Julius Priscus, who had been prefect of the Praetorian Guard under Vitellius, killed himself rather out of shame than by compulsion. Alfenius Varus survived the disgrace of his cowardice. Asiaticus, who was only a freedman, expiated by the death of a slave his evil exercise of power.
At this time the country was hearing with anything but sorrow rumours that daily gained strength of disasters in Germany. Men began to speak of slaughtered armies, of captured encampments, of Gaul in revolt, as if such things were not calamities. Beginning at an earlier period I will discuss the causes in which this war had its origin, and the extent of the movements which it kindled among independent and allied nations.
The Batavians, while they dwelt on the other side of the Rhine, formed a part of the tribe of the Chatti. Driven out by a domestic revolution, they took possession of an uninhabited district on the extremity of the coast of Gaul, and also of a neighbouring island, surrounded by the ocean in front, and by the river Rhine in the rear and on either side. Not weakened by the power of Rome or by alliance with a people stronger than themselves, they furnished to the Empire nothing but men and arms. They had had a long training in the German wars, and they had gained further renown in Britain, to which country their cohorts had been transferred, commanded, according to ancient custom, by the noblest men in the nation. They had also at home a select body of cavalry, who practised with special devotion the art of swimming, so that they could stem the stream of the Rhine with their arms and horses, without breaking the order of their squadrons.
Julius Paullus and Claudius Civilis, scions of the royal family, ranked very high above the rest of their nation. Paullus was executed by Fonteius Capito on a false charge of rebellion. Civilis was put in chains and sent to Nero, and, though acquitted by Galba, again stood in peril of his life in the time of Vitellius, when the army clamoured for his execution. Here were causes of deep offence; hence arose hopes built on our disasters. Civilis, however, was naturally politic to a degree rarely found among barbarians. He was wont to represent himself as Sertorius or Hannibal, on the strength of a similar disfigurement of his countenance. To avoid the opposition which he would encounter as a public enemy, were he openly to revolt from Rome, he affected a friendship for Vespasian and a zealous attachment to his party; and indeed a letter had been despatched to him by Primus Antonius, in which he was directed to divert the reinforcements which Vitellius had called up, and to keep the legions where they were by the feint of an outbreak in Germany. The same policy was suggested by Hordeonius in person; he had a bias towards Vespasian, and feared for the Empire, the utter ruin of which would be very near, were a fresh war with so many thousands of armed men to burst upon Italy.
Civilis, who was resolved on rebellion, and intended, while concealing his ulterior designs, to reveal his other plans as occasion presented itself, set about the work of revolution in this way. By command of Vitellius all the Batavian youth was then being summoned to the conscription, a thing naturally vexatious, and which the officials made yet more burdensome by their rapacity and profligacy, while they selected aged and infirm persons, whom they might discharge for a consideration, and mere striplings, but of distinguished beauty (and many attained even in boyhood to a noble stature), whom they dragged off for infamous purposes. This caused indignation, and the ringleaders of the concerted rebellion prevailed upon the people to refuse the conscription. Civilis collected at one of the sacred groves, ostensibly for a banquet, the chiefs of the nation and the boldest spirits of the lower class. When he saw them warmed with the festivities of the night, he began by speaking of the renown and glory of their race, and then counted the wrongs and the oppressions which they endured, and all the other evils of slavery. “There is,” he said, “no alliance, as once there was; we are treated as slaves. When does even a legate come among us, though he come only with a burdensome retinue and in all the haughtiness of power? We are handed over to prefects and centurions, and when they are glutted with our spoils and our blood, then they are changed, and new receptacles for plunder, new terms for spoliation, are discovered. Now the conscription is at hand, tearing, we may say, for ever children from parents, and brothers from brothers. Never has the power of Rome been more depressed. In the winter quarters of the legions there is nothing but property to plunder and a few old men. Only dare to look up, and cease to tremble at the empty names of legions. For we have a vast force of horse and foot; we have the Germans our kinsmen; we have Gaul bent on the same objects. Even to the Roman people this war will not be displeasing; if defeated, we shall still reckon it a service to Vespasian, and for success no account need be rendered.”
Having been listened to with great approval, he bound the whole assembly with barbarous rites and the national forms of oath. Envoys were sent to the Canninefates to urge a common policy. This is a tribe which inhabits part of the island, and closely resembles the Batavians in their origin, their language, and their courageous character, but is inferior in numbers. After this he sent messengers to tamper with the British auxiliaries and with the Batavian cohorts, who, as I have before related, had been sent into Germany, and were then stationed at Mogontiacum. Among the Canninefates there was a certain Brinno, a man of a certain stolid bravery and of distinguished birth. His father, after venturing on many acts of hostility, had scorned with impunity the ridiculous expedition of Caligula. His very name, the name of a family of rebels, made him popular. Raised aloft on a shield after the national fashion, and balanced on the shoulders of the bearers, he was chosen general. Immediately summoning to arms the Frisii, a tribe of the farther bank of the Rhine, he assailed by sea the winter quarters of two cohorts, which was the nearest point to attack. The soldiers had not anticipated the assault of the enemy; even had they done so, they had not strength to repulse it. Thus the camp was taken and plundered. Then the enemy fell upon the sutlers and Roman traders, who were wandering about in every direction, as they would in a time of peace. At the same time they were on the point of destroying the forts, but the prefects of the cohorts, seeing that they could not hold them, set them on fire. The standards, the colours, and what soldiers there were, concentrated themselves in the upper part of the island under the command of Aquilius, a centurion of the first rank, an army in name rather than in strength. Vitellius in fact, after withdrawing the effective troops from the cohorts, had loaded with arms a crowd of idlers from the neighbouring villages of the Nervii and the Germans.
Civilis, thinking that he must proceed by craft, actually blamed the prefects for having deserted the forts, saying that he would himself, with the cohort under his command, quell the disturbance among the Canninefates, and that they had better return to their respective winter quarters. It was evident, however, that there was some treacherous design beneath this advice, that the cohorts would be dispersed only to be more easily crushed, and that the guiding hand in the war was not Brinno but Civilis; for indications of the truth, which the Germans, a people who delight in war, could not long conceal, were gradually coming to light. When stratagem proved ineffectual, he resorted to force, arranging in distinct columns the Canninefates, the Batavians, and the Frisii. The Roman army was drawn up to meet them not far from the river Rhine, and the ships, which, after burning the forts, they had stranded at that point, were arranged so as to front the enemy. Before the struggle had lasted long, a cohort of Tungrians carried over their standards to Civilis. The other troops, paralysed by the unexpected desertion, were cut down alike by friends and foes. In the fleet there was the same treachery. Some of the rowers were Batavians, and they hindered the operations of the sailors and combatants by an apparent want of skill; then they began to back water, and to run the sterns on to the hostile shore. At last they killed the pilots and centurions, unless these were willing to join them. The end was that the whole fleet of four and twenty vessels either deserted or was taken.
For the moment this was a brilliant success, and it had its use for the future. They possessed themselves of some arms and some vessels, both of which they wanted, while they became very famous throughout Germany as the champions of liberty. The tribes of Germany immediately sent envoys with offers of troops. The co-operation of Gaul Civilis endeavoured to secure by politic liberality, sending back to their respective states the captured prefects of cohorts, and giving permission to their men to go or stay as they preferred. He offered to those who stayed service on honourable terms, to those who departed the spoils of the Roman army. At the same time he reminded them in confidential conversations of the wrongs which they had endured for so many years, while they falsely gave to a wretched slavery the name of peace. “The Batavians,” he said, “though free of tribute, have yet taken up arms against our common masters. In the first conflict the soldiers of Rome have been routed and vanquished. What will be the result if Gaul throws off the yoke? What strength is there yet left in Italy? It is by the blood of the provinces that the provinces are conquered. Think not of how it fared with the armies of Vindex. It was by Batavian cavalry that the Aedui and the Arverni were trampled down, and among the auxiliaries of Verginius there were found Belgian troops. To those who will estimate the matter aright it is evident that Gaul fell by her own strength. But now all are on the same side, and we have whatever remnant of military vigour still flourished in the camps of Rome. With us too are the veteran cohorts to which the legions of Otho lately succumbed. Let Syria, Asia Minor, and the East, habituated as it is to despotism, submit to slavery; there are many yet alive in Gaul who were born before the days of tribute. It was only lately indeed that Quintilius Varus was slain, and slavery driven out of Germany. And the Emperor who was challenged by that war was not a Vitellius, but a Caesar Augustus. Freedom is a gift bestowed by nature even on the dumb animals. Courage is the peculiar excellence of man, and the Gods help the braver side. Let us then, who are free to act and vigorous, fall on a distracted and exhausted enemy. While some are supporting Vespasian, and others Vitellius, opportunities are opening up for acting against both.”
Civilis, bent on winning Gaul and Germany if his purposes should prosper, was on the point of securing supremacy over the most powerful and most wealthy of the states. His first attempts Hordeonius Flaccus had encouraged by affecting ignorance. But when messengers came hurrying in with intelligence that a camp had been stormed, that cohorts had been cut to pieces, and that the Roman power had been expelled from the island of the Batavians, the general ordered the legate, Munius Lupercus, who was in command of the winter quarters of two legions, to advance against the enemy. Lupercus in great haste threw across the Rhine such legionaries as were on the spot, some Ubian troops who were close at hand, and some cavalry of the Treveri, who were stationed at no great distance; these were accompanied by some Batavian horse, who, though they had been long disaffected, yet still simulated loyalty in order that by betraying the Romans in the moment of actual conflict they might receive a higher price for their desertion. Civilis, surrounding himself with the standards of the captured cohorts, to keep their recent honours before the eyes of his own men, and to terrify the enemy by the remembrance of defeat, now directed his own mother and sisters, and the wives and children of all his men, to stand in the rear, where they might encourage to victory, or shame defeat. The war-song of the men, and the shrill cries of the women, rose from the whole line, and an answering but far less vigorous cheer, came from the legions and auxiliaries. The Batavians had exposed the left wing by their desertion, and they immediately turned against our men. Still the legionaries, though their position was alarming, kept their arms and their ranks. The auxiliaries of the Ubii and the Treveri broke at once in shameful flight, and dispersed over the whole country. On that side the Germans threw the weight of their attack. Meanwhile the legions had an opportunity of retreating into what was called the Old Camp. Claudius Labeo, prefect of the Batavian horse, who had been the rival of Civilis in some local contest, was sent away into the country of the Frisii; to kill him might be to give offence to his countrymen, while to keep him with the army might be to sow the seeds of discord.
About the same time the messenger despatched by Civilis came up with the cohorts of the Batavians and the Canninefates, while by the orders of Vitellius they were advancing towards Rome. At once, inflated with pride and haughtiness, they demanded, by way of remuneration for their march, a donative, double pay, and an increase in the number of cavalry, things indeed which Vitellius had promised, but which they now asked, not with the thought of obtaining them, but as a pretext for mutiny. Flaccus, by his many concessions, had produced no other effect but to make them insist with more energy on what they knew he must refuse. Treating him with contempt, they made their way towards Lower Germany, to join Civilis. Hordeonius, assembling the tribunes and centurions, asked their opinion as to whether he should use coercion with those who refused obedience. Soon, yielding to his natural timidity and to the alarm of his officers, who were troubled by the suspicious temper of the auxiliaries and by the fact that the ranks of the legions had been recruited by a hurried conscription, he resolved to confine his troops to the camp. Then, repenting of his resolve, and finding that the very men who had advised it now disapproved it, he seemed bent on pursuing the enemy, and wrote to Herennius Gallus, legate of the first legion, who was then holding Bonna, that he was to prevent the Batavians from crossing the Rhine, and that he would himself hang on their rear with his army. They might have been crushed, if Hordeonius, moving from one side, and Gallus from the other, had enclosed them between their armies. But Flaccus abandoned his purpose, and, in other despatches to Gallus, recommended him not to threaten the departing foe. Thence arose a suspicion that the war was being kindled with the consent of the legates, and that everything which had happened, or was apprehended, was due, not to the cowardice of the troops, or to the strength of the enemy, but to the treachery of the generals.
When the Batavians were near the camp at Bonna, they sent on before them delegates, commissioned to deliver to Herennius Gallus a message from the cohorts. It was to this effect: “We have no quarrel with the Romans, for whom we have so often fought. Wearied with a protracted and fruitless service, we long for our native land and for rest. If no one oppose us, our march will be harmless, but if an armed force encounter us, we will make a way with the sword.” The soldiers prevailed upon the hesitating legate to risk the chances of a battle. Three thousand legionaries, some raw Belgian cohorts, and with them a mob of rustics and camp-followers, cowardly, but bold of speech before the moment of danger, rushed out of all the gates, thinking to surround the Batavians, who were inferior in number. But the enemy, being veteran troops, formed in columns, presenting on every side a dense array, with front, flanks, and rear secure. Thus they were able to break the thin line of our soldiers. The Belgians giving way, the legion was driven back, retreating in confusion on the entrenchments and the gates. It was there that the greatest slaughter took place. The trenches were heaped up with corpses. Nor was it only from the deadly blows of the enemy that they suffered; many perished in the crush and by their own weapons. The victorious army, who avoided the Colonia Agrippinensis, did not venture on any other hostile act during the remainder of their march, and excused the conflict at Bonna, alleging that they had asked for peace, and that when it was refused they had but looked to their own safety.
Civilis, who now on the arrival of these veteran cohorts was at the head of a complete army, but who was undecided in his plans, and still reflected on the power of Rome, made all who were with him swear allegiance to Vespasian, and sent envoys to the two legions which after their defeat in the previous engagement had retreated into the Old Camp, advising them to accept the same allegiance. Their reply was: “We do not follow the advice of traitors or enemies. Vitellius is our Emperor; to him we will retain our fealty and devote our swords till our last breath. Then let not a Batavian refugee affect to decide the destinies of Rome; let him rather await the merited penalty of his guilt.” When this reply was delivered to Civilis, he was furious with anger, and hurried the whole Batavian nation into open war. The Bructeri and the Tencteri joined him, and messengers summoned all Germany to share in his plunder and his glory.
To meet the threatened dangers of the gathering war, the legates of the legions, Munius Lupercus and Numisius Rufus, strengthened their entrenchments and walls. The buildings, which during a long period of peace had grown up like a town near the camp, were destroyed, lest they might be useful to the enemy. Little care, however, was taken about the conveyance of supplies into the camp. These the generals allowed to be plundered; and so, what might long have sufficed for their necessities, was wantonly wasted in a few days. Civilis, who occupied the centre of the army with the elite of the Batavian troops, wishing to add a new terror to his demonstration, covered both banks of the Rhine with columns of his German allies, while his cavalry galloped about the plains. At the same time the fleet was moved up the stream. Here were the standards of the veteran cohorts; there the images of wild beasts, brought out of the woods and sacred groves, under the various forms which each tribe is used to follow into battle, and these mingled emblems of civil and of foreign warfare utterly confounded the besieged. The extent of the entrenchment raised the hopes of the besiegers. Constructed for two legions, it was now held by not more than five thousand Roman soldiers. But there was with them a great number of camp-followers, who had assembled there on the disturbance of peace, and who could be employed in the contest.
Part of the camp occupied the gentle slope of a hill; to part was a level approach. By this encampment Augustus had thought the German tribes might be watched and checked; never had he contemplated such a pitch of disaster, as that these tribes should themselves advance to attack our legions. Hence no labour was bestowed on the ground or on the defences. Our valour and our arms seemed defence enough. The Batavians and the Transrhenane tribes took up their position, each tribe by itself, to distinguish and so the better to display the valour of each; first annoying us by a distant volley; then, as they found that very many of their missiles fixed themselves harmlessly in the turrets and battlements of the walls, and they themselves suffered from the stones showered down on them, they fell on the entrenchment with a shout and furious rush, many placing their scaling-ladders against the ramparts, and others mounting on a testudo formed by their comrades. Some were in the act of climbing over when they were thrust down by the swords of the enemy, and fell overwhelmed by a storm of javelins and stakes. Always very daring at first and excessively elated by success, they now in their eagerness for plunder bore up against reverse. They also ventured to use what to them was a novelty, engines of war; they had themselves no skill in handling them, but the prisoners and deserters taught them to pile up timber in the shape of a bridge, under which they put wheels, and so propelled it, some standing on the top, and fighting as they would from an earth-work, others concealing themselves within and undermining the walls. But the stones thrown by the catapults prostrated the ill-constructed fabric, and when they set themselves to prepare hurdles and mantlets, burning spears were thrown on them by the engines, fire being thus actually used against the assailants. At last, despairing of success by force, they changed their plans, and resolved to wait, for they were well aware that only a few days’ provisions were in the camp, and that there was a great crowd on non-combatants; and they counted at the same time on the treachery that might follow on scarcity, on the wavering fidelity of the slaves, and on the chances of war.
Meanwhile Flaccus, who had heard of the siege of the camp, and had sent into all parts of Gaul to collect auxiliaries, put under command of Dillius Vocula, legate of the 18th legion, some troops picked from the legions with orders to hasten by forced marches along the banks of the Rhine. Flaccus himself, who was weak in health and disliked by his troops, travelled with the fleet. The troops indeed complained in unmistakable language that their general had despatched the Batavian cohorts from Mogontiacum, had feigned ignorance of the plans of Civilis, and was inviting the German tribes to join the league. “This,” they said, “has strengthened Vespasian no less than the exertions of Primus Antonius and Mucianus. Declared enmity and hostility may be openly repulsed, but treachery and fraud work in darkness, and so cannot be avoided. Civilis stands in arms against us, and arranges the order of his battle; Hordeonius from his chamber or his litter gives such orders as may best serve the enemy. The swords of thousands of brave men are directed by one old man’s sick caprice. How much better by slaying the traitor, to set free our valour and our fortune from these evil auspices!” The passions already kindled by the language which they thus held among themselves were yet more inflamed by a despatch from Vespasian, which Flaccus, finding that it could not be concealed, read before an assembly of the troops, sending the persons who had brought it in chains to Vitellius.
With feelings somewhat appeased, they arrived at Bonna, the winter-camp of the first legion. The troops there were even more enraged against Hordeonius, and laid on him the blame of the late disaster. They said that it was by his orders that they had offered battle to the Batavians, supposing that the legions from Mogontiacum were following them; that it was through his treachery that they had been slaughtered, no reinforcements coming up; that all these events were unknown to the other legions, and were not told to their Emperor, though the sudden outburst of treason might have been crushed by the prompt action of so many provinces. Hordeonius read to the army copies of all the letters which he had sent about Gaul, begging for reinforcements, and established as a precedent a most disgraceful practice, namely, the handing over the despatches to the standard-bearers of the legions, through whose means they were read by the soldiers sooner than by the generals. He then ordered one of the mutineers to be put in irons, more for the sake of asserting his authority than because any one man was in fault. The army was then moved from Bonna to the Colonia Agrippinensis, while auxiliaries from Gaul continued to flow in; for at first that nation zealously supported the cause of Rome. Soon indeed as the Germans increased in power, many of the states took up arms against us, moved by the hope of freedom and, could they once shake off the yoke, even by the lust of empire. The irritation of the legions still increased, nor had the imprisonment of a single soldier struck them with terror. This fellow indeed actually charged the general with complicity; he had, he said, acted as a messenger between Civilis and Flaccus, and because he might tell the truth he was now being crushed under a false charge. With wonderful firmness Vocula ascended the tribunal, and ordered the man, who had been seized by the lictors, and was loudly remonstrating, to be led off to execution. All the best men acquiesced in the order, while the ill-affected were struck with terror. Then, as all with common consent demanded that Vocula should be their general, Hordeonius handed over to him the supreme command.
But there were many things to exasperate the already divided feelings of the soldiery. Pay and provisions were scanty, Gaul was rebelling against conscription and taxes, while the Rhine, owing to a drought unexampled in that climate, would hardly admit of navigation, and thus supplies were straitened at the same time that outposts had to be established along the entire bank to keep the Germans from fording the stream; the self-same cause thus bringing about a smaller supply of grain and a greater number of consumers. Among ignorant persons the very failure of the stream was regarded as a prodigy, as if the very rivers, the old defences of the Empire, were deserting us. What, in peace, would have seemed chance or nature, was now spoken of as destiny and the anger of heaven. As the army entered Novesium the sixteenth legion joined it; Herennius Gallus, its legate, was associated with Vocula in the responsibilities of command. As they did not venture to advance upon the enemy, they constructed a camp at a place called Gelduba. Here the generals sought to give steadiness to the troops by such exercises as forming in order of battle, constructing fortifications, making entrenchments, and whatever else might train them for war. In the hope that they might be fired to courage by the delights of plunder, Vocula led the army against the nearest villages of the Gugerni, who had accepted the alliance of Civilis. Some of the troops remained permanently with Herennius Gallus.
One day it happened that at no great distance from the camp the Germans were endeavouring to drag off to their own bank a vessel laden with corn, which had run aground in the shallows. Gallus could not endure this, and sent a cohort to help. The numbers of the Germans also increased; as fresh troops continued to join both sides, a regular battle ensued. The Germans, besides inflicting great loss on our men, carried off the vessel. The vanquished troops, following what had become a regular practice, laid the blame not on their own cowardice, but on supposed treachery in the legate. Dragged out of his tent, his garments torn, and his person severely beaten, he was commanded to declare for what bribe and with what accomplices he had betrayed the army. Their old hatred of Hordeonius reappeared. He, they declared, was the instigator of the crime, Gallus his tool. At last, utterly terrified by their threats of instant death, the legate himself charged Hordeonius with treachery. He was then put in irons, and only released on the arrival of Vocula, who the next day inflicted capital punishment on the ringleaders of the mutiny; such wide extremes of license and of subordination were to be found in that army. The common soldiers were undoubtedly loyal to Vitellius, but all the most distinguished men were in favour of Vespasian. The result was an alternation of outbreaks and executions, and a strange mixture of obedience and frenzy, which made it impossible to restrain the men whom it was yet possible to punish.
Meanwhile all Germany was raising the power of Civilis by vast additions of strength, and the alliance was secured by hostages of the noblest rank. He directed that the territories of the Ubii and the Treveri should be ravaged by the several tribes on which they bordered, and that another detachment should cross the river Mosa, to threaten the Menapii and the Morini and the frontiers of Gaul. In both quarters plunder was collected; with peculiar hostility in the case of the Ubii, because, this nation, being of German origin, had forsworn its native country, and assumed the Roman name of the Agrippinenses. Their cohorts were cut up at the village of Marcodurum, where they lay in careless security, presuming on their distance from the river-bank. The Ubii did not remain quiet, but made predatory excursions into Germany, escaping at first with impunity, though they were afterwards cut off. Throughout the whole of this war, they were more loyal than fortunate. Civilis, grown more formidable now that the Ubii had been crushed, and elated by the success of his operations, pressed on the siege of the legions, keeping a strict watch to prevent any secret intelligence of advancing succours from reaching them. He entrusted to the Batavians the care of the machines and the vast siege-works, and when the Transrhenane tribes clamoured for battle, he bade them go and cut through the ramparts, and, if repulsed, renew the struggle; their numbers were superfluously large, and their loss was not felt. Even darkness did not terminate the struggle.
Piling up logs of wood round the walls and lighting them, they sat feasting, and rushed to the conflict, as each grew heated with wine, with a useless daring. Their missiles were discharged without effect in the darkness, but to the Romans the ranks of the barbarians were plainly discernible, and they singled out with deliberate aim anyone whose boldness or whose decorations made him conspicuous. Civilis saw this, and, extinguishing the fires, threw the confusion of darkness over the attack. Then ensued a scene of discordant clamour, of accident, and uncertainty, where no one could see how to aim or to avoid a blow. Wherever a shout was heard, they wheeled round and strained hand and foot. Valour was of no avail, accident disturbed every plan, and the bravest frequently were struck down by the missiles of the coward. The Germans fought with inconsiderate fury; our men, more alive to the danger, threw, but not at random, stakes shod with iron and heavy stones. Where the noise of the assailants was heard, or where the ladders placed against the walls brought the enemy within reach of their hands, they pushed them back with their shields, and followed them with their javelins. Many, who had struggled on to the walls, they stabbed with their short swords. After a night thus spent, day revealed a new method of attack.
The Batavians had raised a tower two stories high, which they brought up to the Praetorian gate of the camp, where the ground was most level. But our men, pushing forward strong poles, and battering it with beams, broke it down, causing great destruction among the combatants on the top. The enemy were attacked in their confusion by a sudden and successful sally. All this time many engines were constructed by the legionaries, who were superior to the enemy in experience and skill. Peculiar consternation was caused by a machine, which, being poised in the air over the heads of the enemy, suddenly descended, and carried up one or more of them past the faces of their friends, and then, by a shifting of the weights, projected them within the limits of the camp. Civilis, giving up all hope of a successful assault, again sat down to blockade the camp at his leisure, and undermined the fidelity of the legions by the promises of his emissaries.
All these events in Germany took place before the battle of Cremona, the result of which was announced in a despatch from Antonius, accompanied by Caecina’s proclamation. Alpinius Montanus, prefect of a cohort in the vanquished army, was on the spot, and acknowledged the fate of his party. Various were the emotions thus excited; the Gallic auxiliaries, who felt neither affection nor hatred towards either party, and who served without attachment, at once, at the instance of their prefects, deserted Vitellius. The veteran soldiers hesitated. Nevertheless, when Hordeonius administered the oath, under a strong pressure from their tribunes, they pronounced the words, which their looks and their temper belied, and while they adopted every other expression, they hesitated at the name of Vespasian, passing it over with a slight murmur, and not unfrequently in absolute silence.
After this, certain letters from Antonius to Civilis were read in full assembly, and provoked the suspicions of the soldiery, as they seemed to be addressed to a partisan of the cause and to be unfriendly to the army of Germany. Soon the news reached the camp at Gelduba, and the same language and the same acts were repeated. Montanus was sent with a message to Civilis, bidding him desist from hostilities, and not seek to conceal the designs of an enemy by fighting under false colours, and telling him that, if he had been attempting to assist Vespasian, his purpose had been fully accomplished. Civilis at first replied in artful language, but soon perceiving that Montanus was a man of singularly high spirit and was himself disposed for change, he began with lamenting the perils through which he had struggled for five-and-twenty years in the camps of Rome. “It is,” he said, “a noble reward that I have received for my toils; my brother murdered, myself imprisoned, and the savage clamour of this army, a clamour which demanded my execution, and for which by the law of nations I demand vengeance. You, Treveri, and other enslaved creatures, what reward do you expect for the blood which you have shed so often? What but a hateful service, perpetual tribute, the rod, the axe, and the passions of a ruling race? See how I, the prefect of a single cohort, with the Batavians and the Canninefates, a mere fraction of Gaul, have destroyed their vast but useless camps, or are pressing them with the close blockade of famine and the sword. In a word, either freedom will follow on our efforts, or, if we are vanquished, we shall but be what we were before.” Having thus fired the man’s ambition, Civilis dismissed him, but bade him carry back a milder answer. He returned, pretending to have failed in his mission, but not revealing the other facts; these indeed soon came to light.
Civilis, retaining a part of his forces, sent the veteran cohorts and the bravest of his German troops against Vocula and his army, under the command of Julius Maximus and Claudius Victor, his sister’s son. On their march they plundered the winter camp of a body of horse stationed at Ascibergium, and they fell on Vocula’s camp so unexpectedly that he could neither harangue his army, nor even get it into line. All that he could do in the confusion was to order the veteran troops to strengthen the centre. The auxiliaries were dispersed in every part of the field. The cavalry charged, but, received by the orderly array of the enemy, fled to their own lines. What ensued was a massacre rather than a battle. The Nervian infantry, from panic or from treachery, exposed the flank of our army. Thus the attack fell upon the legions, who had lost their standards and were being cut down within the entrenchments, when the fortune of the day was suddenly changed by a reinforcement of fresh troops. Some Vascon infantry, levied by Galba, which had by this time been sent for, heard the noise of the combatants as they approached the camp, attacked the rear of the preoccupied enemy, and spread a panic more than proportionate to their numbers, some believing that all the troops from Novesium, others that all from Mogontiacum, had come up. This delusion restored the courage of the Romans, and in relying on the strength of others they recovered their own. All the bravest of the Batavians, of the infantry at least, fell, but the cavalry escaped with the standards and with the prisoners whom they had secured in the early part of the engagement. Of the slain on that day the greater number belonged to our army, but to its less effective part. The Germans lost the flower of their force.
The two generals were equally blameworthy; they deserved defeat, they did not make the most of success. Had Civilis given battle in greater force, he could not have been outflanked by so small a number of cohorts, and he might have destroyed the camp after once forcing an entrance. As for Vocula, he did not reconnoitre the advancing enemy, and consequently he was vanquished as soon as be left the camp; and then, mistrusting his victory, he fruitlessly wasted several days before marching against the enemy, though, had he at once resolved to drive them back, and to follow up his success, he might, by one and the same movement, have raised the siege of the legions. Meanwhile Civilis had tried to work on the feelings of the besieged by representing that with the Romans all was lost, and that victory had declared for his own troops. The standards and colours were carried round the ramparts, and the prisoners also were displayed. One of them, with noble daring, declared the real truth in a loud voice, and, as he was cut down on the spot by the Germans, all the more confidence was felt in his information. At the same time it was becoming evident, from the devastation of the country and from the flames of burning houses, that the victorious army was approaching. Vocula issued orders that the standards should be planted within sight of the camp, and should be surrounded with a ditch and rampart, where his men might deposit their knapsacks, and so fight without encumbrance. On this, the General was assailed by a clamorous demand for instant battle. They had now grown used to threaten. Without even taking time to form into line, disordered and weary as they were, they commenced the action. Civilis was on the field, trusting quite as much to the faults of his adversaries as to the valour of his own troops. With the Romans the fortune of the day varied, and the most violently mutinous shewed themselves cowards. But some, remembering their recent victory, stood their ground and struck fiercely at the foe, now encouraging each other and their neighbours, and now, while they re-formed their lines, imploring the besieged not to lose the opportunity. These latter, who saw everything from the walls, sallied out from every gate. It so happened that Civilis was thrown to the ground by the fall of his horse. A report that he had been either wounded or slain gained belief throughout both armies, and spread incredible panic among his own troops, and gave as great encouragement to their opponents. But Vocula, leaving the flying foe, began to strengthen the rampart and the towers of the camp, as if another siege were imminent. He had misused success so often that he was rightly suspected of a preference for war.
Nothing distressed our troops so much as the scarcity of supplies. The baggage of the legions was therefore sent to Novesium with a crowd of non-combatants to fetch corn from that place overland, for the enemy commanded the river. The march of the first body was accomplished in security, as Civilis had not yet recovered. But when he heard that officers of the commissariat had been again sent to Novesium, and that the infantry detached as an escort were advancing just as if it were a time of profound peace, with but few soldiers round the standards, the arms stowed away in the wagons, and all wandering about at their pleasure, he attacked them in regular form, having first sent on troops to occupy the bridges and the defiles in the road. The battle extended over a long line of march, lasting with varying success till night parted the combatants. The infantry pushed on to Gelduba, while the camp remained in the same state as before, garrisoned by such troops as had been left in it. There could be no doubt what peril a convoy, heavily laden and panic-stricken, would have to encounter in attempting to return. Vocula added to his force a thousand picked men from the fifth and fifteenth legions besieged in the Old Camp, a body of troops undisciplined and ill-affected to their officers. But more than the number specified came forward, and openly protested, as they marched, that they would not endure any longer the hardships of famine and the treachery of the legates. On the other hand, those who had stayed behind complained that they were, being left to their fate by this withdrawal of a part of the legions. A twofold mutiny was the result, some calling upon Vocula to come back, while the others refused to return to the camp.
Meanwhile Civilis blockaded the Old Camp. Vocula retired first to Gelduba, after, wards to Novesium; Civilis took possession of Gelduba, and not long after was victorious in a cavalry engagement near Novesium. But reverses and successes seemed equally to kindle in the troops the one desire of murdering their officers. The legions, increased in number by the arrival of the men from the fifth and fifteenth, demanded a donative, for they had discovered that some money had been sent by Vitellius. After a short delay Hordeonius gave the donative in the name of Vespasian. This, more than anything else, fostered the mutinous spirit. The men, abandoning themselves to debauchery and revelry and all the license of nightly gatherings, revived their old grudge against Hordeonius. Without a single legate or tribune venturing to check them, for the darkness seems to have taken from them all sense of shame, they dragged him out of his bed and killed him. The same fate was intended for Vocula, but he assumed the dress of a slave, and escaped unrecognized in the darkness. When their fury had subsided and their alarm returned, they sent centurions with despatches to the various states of Gaul, imploring help in money and troops.
These men, headstrong, cowardly, and spiritless, as a mob without a leader always is, on the approach of Civilis hastily took up arms, and, as hastily abandoning them, betook themselves to flight. Disaster produced disunion, the troops from the Upper army dissociating their cause from that of their comrades. Nevertheless the statues of Vitellius were again set up in the camp and in the neighbouring Belgian towns, and this at a time when Vitellius himself had fallen. Then the men of the 1st, the 4th, and the 18th legions, repenting of their conduct, followed Vocula, and again taking in his presence the oath of allegiance to Vespasian, were marched by him to the relief of Mogontiacum. The besieging army, an heterogeneous mass of Chatti, Usipii, and Mattiaci, had raised the siege, glutted with spoils, but not without suffering loss. Our troops attacked them on the way, dispersed and unprepared. Moreover the Treveri had constructed a breastwork and rampart across their territory, and they and the Germans continued to contend with great losses on both sides up to the time when they tarnished by rebellion their distinguished services to the Roman people.
Meanwhile Vespasian (now consul for the second time) and Titus entered upon their office, both being absent from Rome. People were gloomy and anxious under the pressure of manifold fears, for, over and above immediate perils, they had taken groundless alarm under the impression that Africa was in rebellion through the revolutionary movements of Lucius Piso. He was governor of that province, and was far from being a man of turbulent disposition. The fact was that the wheat-ships were detained by the severity of the weather, and the lower orders, who were accustomed to buy their provisions from day to day, and to whom cheap corn was the sole subject of public interest, feared and believed that the ports had been closed and the supplies stopped, the Vitellianists, who had not yet given up their party feelings, helping to spread the report, which was not displeasing even to the conquerors. Their ambition, which even foreign campaigns could not fill to the full, was not satisfied by any triumphs that civil war could furnish.
On the 1st of January, at a meeting of the Senate, convoked for the purpose by Julius Frontinus, praetor of the city, votes of thanks were passed to the legates, to the armies, and to the allied kings. The office of praetor was taken away from Tettius Julianus, as having deserted his legion when it passed over to the party of Vespasian, with a view to its being transferred to Plotius Griphus. Equestrian rank was conferred on Hormus. Then, on the resignation of Frontinus, Caesar Domitian assumed the office of praetor of the city. His name was put at the head of despatches and edicts, but the real authority was in the hands of Mucianus, with this exception, that Domitian ventured on several acts of power, at the instigation of his friends, or at his own caprice. But Mucianus found his principal cause of apprehension in Primus Antonius and Varus Arrius, who, in the freshness of their fame, while distinguished by great achievements and by the attachment of the soldiery, were also supported by the people, because in no case had they extended their severities beyond the battle-field. It was also reported that Antonius had urged Scribonianus Crassus, whom an illustrious descent added to the honours of his brother made a conspicuous person, to assume the supreme power; and it was understood that a number of accomplices would not have failed to support him, had not the proposal been rejected by Scribonianus, who was a man not easily to be tempted even by a certainty, and was proportionately apprehensive of risk. Mucianus, seeing that Antonius could not be openly crushed, heaped many praises upon him in the Senate, and loaded him with promises in secret, holding out as a prize the government of Eastern Spain, then vacant in consequence of the departure of Cluvius Rufus. At the same time he lavished on his friends tribuneships and prefectures; and then, when he had filled the vain heart of the man with hope and ambition, he destroyed his power by sending into winter quarters the 7th legion, whose affection for Antonius was particularly vehement. The 3rd legion, old troops of Varus Arrius, were sent back to Syria. Part of the army was on its way to Germany. Thus all elements of disturbance being removed, the usual appearance of the capital, the laws, and the jurisdiction of the magistrates, were once more restored.
Domitian, on the day of his taking his seat in the Senate, made a brief and measured speech in reference to the absence of his father and brother, and to his own youth. He was graceful in his bearing, and, his real character being yet unknown, the frequent blush on his countenance passed for modesty. On his proposing the restoration of the Imperial honours of Galba, Curtius Montanus moved that respect should also be paid to the memory of Piso. The Senate passed both motions, but that which referred to Piso was not carried out. Certain commissioners were then appointed by lot, who were to see to the restitution of property plundered during the war, to examine and restore to their place the brazen tables of the laws, which had fallen down through age, to free the Calendar from the additions with which the adulatory spirit of the time had disfigured it, and to put a check on the public expenditure. The office of praetor was restored to Tettius Julianus, as soon as it was known that he had fled for refuge to Vespasian. Griphus still retained his rank. It was then determined that the cause of Musonius Rufus against Publius Celer should be again brought on. Publius was condemned, and thus expiation was made to the shade of Soranus. The day thus marked by an example of public justice was not barren of distinction to individuals. Musonius was thought to have fulfilled the righteous duty of an accuser, but men spoke very differently of Demetrius, a disciple of the Cynical school of philosophy, who pleaded the cause of a notorious criminal by appeals to corrupt influences rather than by fair argument. Publius himself, in his peril, had neither spirit nor power of speech left. The signal for vengeance on the informers having been thus given, Junius Mauricus asked Caesar to give the Senate access to the Imperial registers, from which they might learn what impeachments the several informers had proposed. Caesar answered, that in a matter of such importance the Emperor must be consulted.
The Senate, led by its principal members, then framed a form of oath, which was eagerly taken by all the magistrates and by the other Senators in the order in which they voted. They called the Gods to witness, that nothing had been done by their instrumentality to prejudice the safety of any person, and that they had gained no distinction or advantage by the ruin of Roman citizens. Great was the alarm, and various the devices for altering the words of the oath, among those who felt the consciousness of guilt. The Senate appreciated the scruple, but denounced the perjury. This public censure, as it might be called, fell with especial severity on three men, Sariolenus Vocula, Nonnius Attianus, and Cestius Severus, all of them infamous for having practised the trade of the informer in the days of Nero. Sariolenus indeed laboured under an imputation of recent date. It was said that he had attempted the same practices during the reign of Vitellius. The Senators did not desist from threatening gestures, till he quitted the chamber; then passing to Paccius Africanus, they assailed him in the same way. It was he, they said, who had singled out as victims for Nero the brothers Scribonius, renowned for their mutual affection and for their wealth. Africanus dared not confess his guilt, and could not deny it; but he himself turned on Vibius Crispus, who was pressing him with questions, and complicating a charge which he could not rebut, shifted the blame from himself by associating another with his guilt.
Great was the reputation for brotherly affection, as well as for eloquence, which Vipstanus Messalla earned for himself on that day, by venturing, though not yet of Senatorial age, to plead for his brother Aquilius Regulus. The fall of the families of the Crassi and Orfitus had brought Regulus into the utmost odium. Of his own free will, as it seemed, and while still a mere youth, he had undertaken the prosecution, not to ward off any peril from himself, but in the hope of gaining power. The wife of Crassus, Sulpicia Praetextata, and her four children were ready, should the Senate take cognizance of the cause, to demand vengeance. Accordingly, Messalla, without attempting to defend the case or the person accused, had simply thrown himself in the way of the perils that threatened his brother, and had thus wrought upon the feelings of several Senators. On this Curtius Montanus met him with a fierce speech, in which he went to the length of asserting, that after the death of Galba, money had been given by Regulus to the murderer of Piso, and that he had even fastened his teeth in the murdered man’s head. “Certainly,” he said, “Nero did not compel this act; you did not secure by this piece of barbarity either your rank or your life. We may bear with the defence put forward by men who thought it better to destroy others than to come into peril themselves. As for you, the exile of your father, and the division of his property among his creditors, had left you perfectly safe, besides that your youth incapacitated you for office; there was nothing in you which Nero could either covet or dread. It was from sheer lust of slaughter and greed of gain that you, unknown as you were, you, who had never pleaded in any man’s defence, steeped your soul in noble blood, when, though you had snatched from the very grave of your Country the spoils of a man of consular rank, had been fed to the full with seven million sesterces, and shone with all sacerdotal honours, you yet overwhelmed in one common ruin innocent boys, old men of illustrious name, and noble ladies, when you actually blamed the tardy movements of Nero in wearying himself and his informers with the overthrow of single families, and declared that the whole Senate might be destroyed by one word. Keep, Conscript Fathers, preserve a man of such ready counsels, that every age may be furnished with its teacher, and that our young men may imitate Regulus, just as our old men imitate Marcellus and Crispus. Even unsuccessful villany finds some to emulate it: what will happen, if it flourish and be strong? And the man, whom we dare not offend when he holds only quaestor’s rank, are we to see him rise to the dignities of praetor and consul? Do you suppose that Nero will be the last of the tyrants? Those who survived Tiberius, those who survived Caligula, thought the same; and yet after each there arose another ruler yet more detestable and more cruel. We are not afraid of Vespasian; the age and moderation of the new Emperor reassure us. But the influence of an example outlives the individual character. We have lost our vigour, Conscript Fathers; we are no longer that Senate, which, when Nero had fallen, demanded that the informers and ministers of the tyrant should be punished according to ancient custom. The first day after the downfall of a wicked Emperor is the best of opportunities.”
Montanus was heard with such approval on the part of the Senate, that Helvidius conceived a hope that Marcellus also might be overthrown. He therefore began with a panegyric on Cluvius Rufus, who, though not less rich nor less renowned for eloquence, had never imperilled a single life in the days of Nero. By this comparison, as well as by direct accusations, he pressed Eprius hard, and stirred the indignation of the Senators. When Marcellus perceived this, he made as if he would leave the House, exclaiming, “We go, Priscus, and leave you your Senate; act the king, though Caesar himself be present.” Crispus followed. Both were enraged, but their looks were different; Marcellus cast furious glances about him, while Crispus smiled. They were drawn back, however, into the Senate by the hasty interference of friends. The contest grew fiercer, while the well-disposed majority on the one side, and a powerful minority on the other, fought out their obstinate quarrel, and thus the day was spent in altercation.
At the next meeting of the Senate Caesar began by recommending that the wrongs, the resentments, and the terrible necessities of former times, should be forgotten, and Mucianus spoke at great length in favour of the informers. At the same time he admonished in gentle terms and in a tone of entreaty those who were reviving indictments, which they had before commenced and afterwards dropped. The Senators, when they found themselves opposed, relinquished the liberty which they had begun to exercise. That it might not be thought that the opinion of the Senate was disregarded, or that impunity was accorded to all acts done in the days of Nero, Mucianus sent back to their islands two men of Senatorial rank, Octavius Sagitta and Antistius Sosianus, who had quitted their places of banishment. Octavius had seduced one Pontia Postumia, and, on her refusing to marry him, in the frenzy of passion had murdered her. Sosianus by his depravity had brought many to ruin. Both had been condemned and banished by a solemn decision of the Senate, and, though others were permitted to return, were kept under the same penalty. But this did not mitigate the hatred felt against Mucianus. Sosianus and Sagitta were utterly insignificant, even if they did return; but men dreaded the abilities of the informers, their wealth, and the power which they exercised in many sinister ways.
A trial, conducted in the Senate according to ancient precedents, brought into harmony for a time the feelings of its members. Manlius Patruitus, a Senator, laid a complaint, that he had been beaten by a mob in the colony of Sena, and that by order of the magistrates; that the wrong had not stopped here, but that lamentations and wailings, in fact a representation of funeral obsequies, had been enacted in his presence, accompanied with contemptuous and insulting expressions levelled against the whole Senate. The persons accused were summoned to appear, and after the case had been investigated, punishment was inflicted on those who were found guilty. A resolution of the Senate was also passed, recommending more orderly behaviour to the people of Sena. About the same time Antonius Flamma was condemned under the law against extortion, at the suit of the people of Cyrene, and was banished for cruel practices.
Amidst all this a mutiny in the army all but broke out. The troops who, having been disbanded by Vitellius, had flocked to support Vespasian, asked leave to serve again in the Praetorian Guard, and the soldiers who had been selected from the legions with the same prospect now clamoured for their promised pay. Even the Vitellianists could not be got rid of without much bloodshed. But the money required for retaining in the service so vast a body of men was immensely large. Mucianus entered the camp to examine more accurately the individual claims. The victorious army, wearing their proper decorations and arms, he drew up with moderate intervals of space between the divisions; then the Vitellianists, whose capitulation at Bovillae I have already related, and the other troops of the party, who had been collected from the capital and its neighbourhood, were brought forth almost naked. Mucianus ordered these men to be drawn up apart, making the British, the German, and any other troops that there were belonging to other armies, take up separate positions. The very first view of their situation paralyzed them. They saw opposed to them what seemed a hostile array, threatening them with javelin and sword. They saw themselves hemmed in, without arms, filthy and squalid. And when they began to be separated, some to be marched to one spot, and some to another, a thrill of terror ran through them all. Among the troops from Germany the panic was particularly great; for they believed that this separation marked them out for slaughter. They embraced their fellow soldiers, clung to their necks, begged for parting kisses, and entreated that they might not be deserted, or doomed in a common cause to suffer a different lot. They invoked now Mucianus, now the absent Emperor, and, as a last resource, heaven and the Gods, till Mucianus came forward, and calling them “soldiers bound by the same oath and servants of the same Emperor,” stopped the groundless panic. And indeed the victorious army seconded the tears of the vanquished with their approving shouts. This terminated the proceedings for that day. But when Domitian harangued them a few days afterwards, they received him with increased confidence. The land that was offered them they contemptuously rejected, and begged for regular service and pay. Theirs were prayers indeed, but such as it was impossible to reject. They were therefore received into the Praetorian camp. Then such as had reached the prescribed age, or had served the proper number of campaigns, received an honourable discharge; others were dismissed for misconduct; but this was done by degrees and in detail, always the safest mode of reducing the united strength of a multitude.
It is a fact that, whether suggested by real poverty or by a wish to give the appearance of it, a proposition passed the Senate to the effect that a loan of sixty million sesterces from private persons should be accepted. Pompeius Silvanus was appointed to manage the affair. Before long, either the necessity ceased or the pretence was dropped. After this, on the motion of Domitian, the consulships conferred by Vitellius were cancelled, and the honours of a censor’s funeral were paid to Sabinus; great lessons both of the mutability of fortune, ever bringing together the highest honours and the lowest humiliations.
About the same time the proconsul Lucius Piso was murdered. I shall make the account of this murder as exact as possible by first reviewing a few earlier circumstances, which have a bearing on the origin and motives of such deeds. The legion and the auxiliaries stationed in Africa to guard the frontiers of the Empire were under the proconsul’s authority during the reigns of the divine Augustus and Tiberius. But in course of time Caligula, prompted by his restless temper and by his fear of Marcus Silanus, who then held Africa, took away the legion from the proconsul, and handed it over to a legate whom he sent for that purpose. The patronage was equally divided between the two officers. A source of disagreement was thus studiously sought in the continual clashing of their authority, and it was further developed by an unprincipled rivalry. The power of the legates grew through their lengthened tenure of office, and, perhaps, because an inferior feels greater interest in such a competition. All the more distinguished of the proconsuls cared more for security than for power.
At this time the legion in Africa was commanded by Valerius Festus, a young man of extravagant habits and immoderate ambition, who was now made uneasy by his relationship to Vitellius. Whether this man in their frequent interviews tempted Piso to revolt, or whether he resisted such overtures, is not known for certain, for no one was present at their confidential meetings, and, after Piso’s death, many were disposed to ingratiate themselves with the murderer. There is no doubt that the province and the troops entertained feelings of hostility to Vespasian, and some of the Vitellianists, who had escaped from the capital, incessantly represented to Piso that Gaul was hesitating and Germany ready to revolt, that his own position was perilous, and that for one who in peace must be suspected, war was the safer course. While this was going on, Claudius Sagitta, prefect of Petra’s Horse, making a very quick passage, reached Africa before Papirius, the centurion despatched by Mucianus. He declared that an order to put Piso to death had been given to the centurion, and that Galerianus, his cousin and son-in-law, had perished; that his only hope of safety was in bold action; that in such action two paths were open; he might defend himself on the spot, or he might sail for Gaul and offer his services as general to the Vitellianist armies. Piso was wholly unmoved by this statement. The centurion despatched by Mucianus, on landing in the port of Carthage, raised his voice, and invoked in succession all blessings on the head of Piso, as if he were Emperor, and bade the bystanders, who were astonished by this sudden and strange proceeding, take up the same cry. The credulous mob rushed into the market-place, and demanded that Piso should shew himself. They threw everything into an uproar with their clamorous shouts of joy, careless of the truth, and only eager to flatter. Piso, acting on the information of Sagitta, or, perhaps, from natural modesty, would not make his appearance in public, or trust himself to the zeal of the populace. On questioning the centurion, and finding that he had sought a pretext for accusing and murdering him, he ordered the man to be executed, moved, not so much by any hope of saving his life, as by indignation against the assassin; for this fellow had been one of the murderers of Macer, and was now come to slay the proconsul with hands already stained with the blood of the legate. He then severely blamed the people of Carthage in an edict which betrayed his anxiety, and ceased to discharge even the usual duties of his office, shutting himself up in his palace, to guard against any casual occurrence that might lead to a new outbreak.
But when the agitation of the people, the execution of the centurion, and other news, true or false, exaggerated as usual by report, came to the ears of Festus, he sent some cavalry to put Piso to death. They rode over at full speed, and broke into the dwelling of the proconsul in the dim light of early dawn, with their swords drawn in their hands. Many of them were unacquainted with the person of Piso, for the legate had selected some Moorish and Carthaginian auxiliaries to perpetrate the deed. Near the proconsul’s chamber they chanced to meet a slave, and asked him who he was, and where Piso was to be found? The slave with a noble untruth replied, “I am he,” and was immediately cut down. Soon after Piso was killed, for there was on the spot one who recognized him, Baebius Massa, one of the procurators of Africa, a name even then fatal to the good, and destined often to reappear among the causes of the sufferings which he had ere long to endure. From Adrumetum, where he had stayed to watch the result, Festus went to the legion, and gave orders that Cetronius Pisanus, prefect of the camp, should be put in irons. He did this out of private pique, but he called the man an accomplice of Piso. Some few centurions and soldiers he punished, others he rewarded, neither the one nor the other deservedly, but he wished men to believe that he had extinguished a war. He then put an end to a quarrel between the Censes and the Leptitani, which, originating in robberies of corn and cattle by two rustic populations, had grown from this insignificant beginning till it was carried on in pitched battles. The people of Ceea, who were inferior in numbers, had summoned to their aid the Garamantes, a wild race incessantly occupied in robbing their neighbours. This had brought the Leptitani to extremities; their territories had been ravaged far and wide, and they were trembling within their walls, when the Garamantes were put to flight by the arrival of the auxiliary infantry and cavalry, and the whole of the booty was recaptured, with the exception of some which the plunderers, in their wanderings through inaccessible hamlets, had sold to more distant tribes.
Vespasian had heard of the victory of Cremona, and had received favourable tidings from all quarters, and he was now informed of the fall of Vitellius by many persons of every rank, who, with a good fortune equal to their courage, risked the perils of the wintry sea. Envoys had come from king Vologesus to offer him 40,000 Parthian cavalry. It was a matter of pride and joy to him to be courted with such splendid offers of help from the allies, and not to want them. He thanked Vologesus, and recommended him to send ambassadors to the Senate, and to learn for himself that peace had been restored. While his thoughts were fixed on Italy and on the state of the Capital, he heard an unfavourable account of Domitian, which represented him as overstepping the limits of his age and the privileges of a son. He therefore entrusted Titus with the main strength of the army to complete what had yet to be done in the Jewish war.
It was said that Titus before his departure had a long interview with his father, in which he implored him not to let himself be easily excited by the reports of slanderers, but to shew an impartial and forgiving temper towards his son. “Legions and fleets,” he reminded him, “are not such sure bulwarks of Imperial power as a numerous family. As for friends, time, altered fortunes, perhaps their passions or their errors, may weaken, may change, may even destroy, their affection. A man’s own race can never be dissociated from him, least of all with Princes, whose prosperity is shared by others, while their reverses touch but their nearest kin. Even between brothers there can be no lasting affection, except the father sets the example.” Vespasian, delighted with the brotherly affection of Titus rather than reconciled to Domitian, bade his son be of good cheer, and aggrandise the State by war and deeds of arms. He would himself provide for the interests of peace, and for the welfare of his family. He then had some of the swiftest vessels laden with corn, and committed them to the perils of the still stormy sea. Rome indeed was in the very critical position of not having more than ten days’ consumption in the granaries, when the supplies from Vespasian arrived.
The work of rebuilding the Capitol was assigned by him to Lucius Vestinius, a man of the Equestrian order, who, however, for high character and reputation ranked among the nobles. The soothsayers whom he assembled directed that the remains of the old shrine should be removed to the marshes, and the new temple raised on the original site. The Gods, they said, forbade the old form to be changed. On the 21st of June, beneath a cloudless sky, the entire space devoted to the sacred enclosure was encompassed with chaplets and garlands. Soldiers, who bore auspicious names, entered the precincts with sacred boughs. Then the vestal virgins, with a troop of boys and girls, whose fathers and mothers were still living, sprinkled the whole space with water drawn from the fountains and rivers. After this, Helvidius Priscus, the praetor, first purified the spot with the usual sacrifice of a sow, a sheep, and a bull, and duly placed the entrails on turf; then, in terms dictated by Publius Aelianus, the high-priest, besought Jupiter, Juno, Minerva, and the tutelary deities of the place, to prosper the undertaking, and to lend their divine help to raise the abodes which the piety of men had founded for them. He then touched the wreaths, which were wound round the foundation stone and entwined with the ropes, while at the same moment all the other magistrates of the State, the Priests, the Senators, the Knights, and a number of the citizens, with zeal and joy uniting their efforts, dragged the huge stone along. Contributions of gold and silver and virgin ores, never smelted in the furnace, but still in their natural state, were showered on the foundations. The soothsayers had previously directed that no stone or gold which had been intended for any other purpose should profane the work. Additional height was given to the structure; this was the only variation which religion would permit, and the one feature which had been thought wanting in the splendour of the old temple.
Meanwhile the tidings of the death of Vitellius, spreading through Gaul and Germany, had caused a second war. Civilis had thrown aside all disguise, and was now openly assailing the Roman power, while the legions of Vitellius preferred even a foreign yoke to the rule of Vespasian. Gaul had gathered fresh courage from the belief that the fortunes of our armies had been everywhere disastrous; for a report was rife that our winter camps in Moesia and Pannonia were hemmed in by the Sarmatians and Dacians. Rumours equally false were circulated respecting Britain. Above all, the conflagration of the Capitol had made them believe that the end of the Roman Empire was at hand. The Gauls, they remembered, had captured the city in former days, but, as the abode of Jupiter was uninjured, the Empire had survived; whereas now the Druids declared, with the prophetic utterances of an idle superstition, that this fatal conflagration was a sign of the anger of heaven, and portended universal empire for the Transalpine nations. A rumour had also gone forth that the chiefs of Gaul, whom Otho had sent against Vitellius, had, before their departure, bound themselves by a compact not to fall the cause of freedom, should the power of Rome be broken by a continuous succession of civil wars and internal calamities.
Before the murder of Flaccus Hordeonius nothing had come out by which any conspiracy could be discovered. After his death, messengers passed to and fro between Civilis and Classicus, commander of the cavalry of the Treveri. Classicus was first among his countrymen in rank and wealth; he was of a royal house, of a race distinguished both in peace and war, and he himself claimed to be by family tradition the foe rather than the ally of the Romans. Julius Tutor and Julius Sabinus joined him in his schemes. One was a Trever, the other a Lingon. Tutor had been made by Vitellius guardian of the banks of the Rhine. Sabinus, over and above his natural vanity, was inflamed with the pride of an imaginary descent, for he asserted that his great-grandmother had, by her personal charms, attracted the admiration of the divine Julius, when he was campaigning in Gaul. These two men held secret conferences to sound the views of the rest of their countrymen, and when they had secured as accomplices such as they thought suitable for their purpose, they met together in a private house in the Colonia Agrippinensis; for the State in its public policy was strongly opposed to all such attempts. Some, however, of the Ubii and Tungri were present but the Treveri and Lingones had the greatest weight in the matter. Nor could they endure the delay of deliberation; they rivalled each other in vehement assertions that the Romans were in a frenzy of discord, that their legions had been cut to pieces, that Italy was laid waste, that Rome itself was at that very moment undergoing capture, while all her armies were occupied by wars of their own. If they were but to secure the passes of the Alps with bodies of troops, Gaul, with her own freedom firmly established, might look about her, and fix the limits of her dominion.
These views were no sooner stated than approved. As to the survivors of the Vitellianist army, they doubted what to do; many voted for putting to death men so turbulent and faithless, stained too with the blood of their generals. Still the policy of mercy prevailed. To cut off all hope of quarter might provoke an obstinate resistance. It would be better to draw them into friendly union. If only the legates of the legions were put to death, the remaining multitude, moved by the consciousness of guilt and the hope of escape, would readily join their cause.
Such was the outline of their original plan. Emissaries were likewise despatched throughout Gaul to stir up war, while they themselves feigned submission, that they might be the better able to crush the unsuspecting Vocula. Persons, however, were found to convey information to him, but he had not sufficient strength to suppress the movement, as the legions were incomplete in numbers and disloyal. So, what with soldiers of doubtful fidelity and secret enemies, he thought it best, under the circumstances, to make his way by meeting deceit with deceit, and by using the same arts with which he was himself assailed. He therefore went down to the Colonia Agrippinenses. Thither Claudius Labeo, who, as I have related, had been taken prisoner and sent out of the province into the country of the Frisii, made his escape by bribing his gaolers. This man undertook, if a force were given him, to enter the Batavian territory and bring back to the Roman alliance the more influential part of that State; but, though he obtained a small force of infantry and cavalry, he did not venture to attempt anything among the Batavi, but only induced some of the Nervii and Betasii to take up arms, and made continual attacks on the Canninefates and the Marsaci more in the way of robbery than of war.
Lured on by the treacherous representations of the Gauls, Vocula marched against the enemy. He was near the Old Camp, when Classicus and Tutor, who had gone on in advance under the pretence of reconnoitring, concluded an agreement with the German chiefs. They then for the first time separated themselves from the legions, and formed a camp of their own, with a separate line of entrenchment, while Vocula protested that the power of Rome was not so utterly shaken by civil war as to have become contemptible even to Treveri and Lingones. “There are still,” he said, “faithful provinces, victorious armies, the fortune of the Empire, and avenging Gods. Thus it was that Sacrovir and the Aedui in former days, Vindex and the Gauls in more recent times, were crushed in a single battle. The breakers of treaties may look for the vengeance of the same Deities, and the same doom. Julius and Augustus understood far better the character of the people. Galba’s policy and the diminution of their tribute have inspired them with hostile feelings. They are now enemies, because their yoke is easy; when they have been plundered and stripped, they will be friends.” After uttering this defiance, finding that Classicus and Tutor persisted in their treachery, he changed his line of march, and retired to Novesium. The Gauls encamped at a distance of two miles, and plied with bribes the centurions and soldiers who visited them there, striving to make a Roman army commit the unheard of baseness of swearing allegiance to foreigners, and pledge itself to the perpetration of this atrocious crime by murdering or imprisoning its officers. Vocula, though many persons advised him to escape, thought it best to be bold, and, summoning an assembly, spoke as follows:
“Never, when I have addressed you, have I felt more anxious for your welfare, never more indifferent about my own. Of the destruction that threatens me I can hear with cheerfulness; and amid so many evils I look forward to death as the end of my sufferings. For you I feel shame and compassion. Against you indeed no hostile ranks are gathering. That would be but the lawful course of war, and the right which an enemy may claim. But Classicus hopes to wage with your strength his war against Rome, and proudly offers to your allegiance an empire of Gaul. Though our fortune and courage have for the moment failed us, have we so utterly forgotten the old memories of those many times when the legions of Rome resolved to perish but not to be driven from their post? Often have our allies endured to see their cities destroyed, and with their wives and children to die in the flames, with only this reward in their death, the glory of untarnished loyalty. At this very moment our legions at the Old Camp are suffering the horrors of famine and of siege, and cannot be shaken by threats or by promises. We, besides our arms, our numbers, and the singular strength of our fortifications, have corn and supplies sufficient for a campaign however protracted. We had lately money enough even to furnish a donative; and, whether you choose to refer the bounty to Vitellius or Vespasian, it was at any rate from a Roman Emperor that you received it. If you, who have been victorious in so many campaigns, who have so often routed the enemy at Gelduba and at the Old Camp, yet shrink from battle, this indeed is an unworthy fear. Still you have an entrenched camp; you have fortifications and the means of prolonging the war, till succouring armies pour in from the neighbouring provinces. It may be that I do not satisfy you; you may fall back on other legates or tribunes, on some centurion, even on some common soldier. Let not this monstrous news go forth to the whole world, that with you in their train Civilis and Classicus are about to invade Italy. Should the Germans and the Gauls lead you to the walls of the capital, will you lift up arms against your Country? My soul shudders at the imagination of so horrible a crime. Will you mount guard for Tutor, the Trever? Shall a Batavian give the signal for battle? Will you serve as recruits in the German battalions? What will be the issue of your wickedness when the Roman legions are marshalled against you? Will you be a second time deserters, a second time traitors, and brave the anger of heaven while you waver between your old and your new allegiance? I implore and entreat thee, O Jupiter, supremely good and great, to whom through eight hundred and twenty years we have paid the honours of so many triumphs, and thou, Quirinus, father of Rome, that, if it be not your pleasure that this camp should be preserved pure and inviolate under my command, you will at least not suffer it to be polluted and defiled by a Tutor and a Classicus. Grant that the soldiers of Rome may either be innocent of crime, or at least experience a repentance speedy and without remorse.”
They received his speech with feelings that varied between hope, fear, and shame. Vocula then left them, and was preparing to put an end to his life, when his freedmen and slaves prevented him from anticipating by his own act a most miserable death. Classicus despatched one Aemilius Longinus, a deserter from the first legion, and speedily accomplished the murder. With respect to the two legates, Herennius and Numisius, it was thought enough to put them in chains. Classicus then assumed the insignia of Roman Imperial power, and entered the camp. Hardened though he was to every sort of crime, he could only find words enough to go through the form of oath. All who were present swore allegiance to the empire of Gaul. He distinguished the murderer of Vocula by high promotion, and the others by rewards proportioned to their services in crime.
Tutor and Classicus then divided the management of the war between them. Tutor, investing the Colonia Agrippinensis with a strong force, compelled the inhabitants and all the troops on the Upper Rhine to take the same oath. He did this after having first put to death the tribunes at Mogontiacum, and driven away the prefect of the camp, because they refused obedience. Classicus picked out all the most unprincipled men from the troops who had capitulated, and bade them go to the besieged, and offer them quarter, if they would accept the actual state of affairs; otherwise there was no hope for them; they would have to endure famine, the sword, and the direst extremities. The messengers whom he sent supported their representations by their own example.
The ties of loyalty on the one hand, and the necessities of famine on the other, kept the besieged wavering between the alternatives of glory and infamy. While they thus hesitated, all usual and even unusual kinds of food failed them, for they had consumed their horses and beasts of burden and all the other animals, which, though unclean and disgusting, necessity compelled them to use. At last they tore up shrubs and roots and the grass that grew between the stones, and thus shewed an example of patience under privations, till at last they shamefully tarnished the lustre of their fame by sending envoys to Civilis to beg for their lives. Their prayers were not heard, till they swore allegiance to the empire of Gaul. Civilis then stipulated for the plunder of the camp, and appointed guards who were to secure the treasure, the camp-followers, and the baggage, and accompany them as they departed, stripped of everything. About five miles from the spot the Germans rose upon them, and attacked them as they marched without thought of danger. The bravest were cut down where they stood; the greater part, as they were scattered in flight. The rest made their escape to the camp, while Civilis certainly complained of the proceeding, and upbraided the Germans with breaking faith by this atrocious act. Whether this was mere hypocrisy, or whether he was unable to restrain their fury, is not positively stated. They plundered and then fired the camp, and all who survived the battle the flames destroyed.
Then Civilis fulfilled a vow often made by barbarians; his hair, which he had let grow long and coloured with a red dye from the day of taking up arms against Rome, he now cut short, when the destruction of the legions had been accomplished. It was also said that he set up some of the prisoners as marks for his little son to shoot at with a child’s arrows and javelins. He neither took the oath of allegiance to Gaul himself, nor obliged any Batavian to do so, for he relied on the resources of Germany, and felt that, should it be necessary to fight for empire with the Gauls, he should have on his side a great name and superior strength. Munius Lupercus, legate of one of the legions, was sent along with other gifts to Veleda, a maiden of the tribe of the Bructeri, who possessed extensive dominion; for by ancient usage the Germans attributed to many of their women prophetic powers and, as the superstition grew in strength, even actual divinity. The authority of Veleda was then at its height, because she had foretold the success of the Germans and the destruction of the legions. Lupercus, however, was murdered on the road. A few of the centurions and tribunes, who were natives of Gaul, were reserved as hostages for the maintenance of the alliance. The winter encampments of the auxiliary infantry and cavalry and of the legions, with the sole exception of those at Mogontiacum and Vindonissa, were pulled down and burnt.
The 16th legion, with the auxiliary troops that capitulated at the same time, received orders to march from Novesium to the Colony of the Treveri, a day having been fixed by which they were to quit the camp. The whole of this interval they spent in many anxious thoughts. The cowards trembled to think of those who had been massacred at the Old Camp; the better men blushed with shame at the infamy of their position. “What a march is this before us!” they cried, “Who will lead us on our way? Our all is at the disposal of those whom we have made our masters for life or death.” Others, without the least sense of their disgrace, stowed away about their persons their money and what else they prized most highly, while some got their arms in readiness, and girded on their weapons as if for battle. While they were thus occupied, the time for their departure arrived, and proved even more dismal than their anticipation. For in their intrenchments their woeful appearance had not been so noticeable; the open plain and the light of day revealed their disgrace. The images of the Emperors were torn down; the standards were borne along without their usual honours, while the banners of the Gauls glittered on every side. The train moved on in silence like a long funeral procession. Their leader was Claudius Sanctus; one of his eyes had been destroyed; he was repulsive in countenance and even more feeble in intellect. The guilt of the troops seemed to be doubled, when the other legion, deserting the camp at Bonna, joined their ranks. When the report of the capture of the legions became generally known, all who but a short time before trembled at the name of Rome rushed forth from the fields and houses, and spread themselves everywhere to enjoy with extravagant delight the strange spectacle. The Picentine Horse could not endure the triumph of the insulting rabble, and, disregarding the promises and threats of Sanctus, rode off to Mogontiacum. Chancing to fall in with Longinus, the murderer of Vocula, they overwhelmed him with a shower of darts, and thus made a beginning towards a future expiation of their guilt. The legions did not change the direction of their march, and encamped under the walls of the colony of the Treveri.
Elated with their success, Civilis and Classicus doubted whether they should not give up the Colonia Agrippinensis to be plundered by their troops. Their natural ferocity and lust for spoil prompted them to destroy the city; but the necessities of war, and the advantage of a character for clemency to men founding a new empire, forbade them to do so. Civilis was also influenced by recollections of kindness received; for his son, who at the beginning of the war had been arrested in the Colony, had been kept in honourable custody. But the tribes beyond the Rhine disliked the place for its wealth and increasing power, and held that the only possible way of putting an end to war would be, either to make it an open city for all Germans, or to destroy it and so disperse the Ubii.
Upon this the Tencteri, a tribe separated by the Rhine from the Colony, sent envoys with orders to make known their instructions to the Senate of the Agrippinenses. These orders the boldest spirit among the ambassadors thus expounded: “For your return into the unity of the German nation and name we give thanks to the Gods whom we worship in common and to Mars, the chief of our divinities, and we congratulate you that at length you will live as free men among the free. Up to this day have the Romans closed river and land and, in a way, the very air, that they may bar our converse and prevent our meetings, or, what is a still worse insult to men born to arms, may force us to assemble unarmed and all but stripped, watched by sentinels, and taxed for the privilege. But that our friendship and union may be established for ever, we require of you to strip your city of its walls, which are the bulwarks of slavery. Even savage animals, if you keep them in confinement, forget their natural courage. We require of you to massacre all Romans within your territory; liberty and a dominant race cannot well exist together. Let the property of the slain come into a common stock, so that no one may be able to secrete anything, or to detach his own interest from ours. Let it be lawful for us and for you to inhabit both banks of the Rhine, as it was of old for our ancestors. As nature has given light and air to all men, so has she thrown open every land to the brave. Resume the manners and customs of your country, renouncing the pleasures, through which, rather than through their arms, the Romans secure their power against subject nations. A pure and untainted race, forgetting your past bondage, you will be the equals of all, or will even rule over others.”
The inhabitants of the Colony took time for deliberation, and, as dread of the future would not allow them to accept the offered terms, while their actual condition forbade an open and contemptuous rejection, they replied to the following effect: “The very first chance of freedom that presented itself we seized with more eagerness than caution, that we might unite ourselves with you and the other Germans, our kinsmen by blood. With respect to our fortifications, as at this very moment the Roman armies are assembling, it is safer for us to strengthen than to destroy them. All strangers from Italy or the provinces, that may have been in our territory, have either perished in the war, or have fled to their own homes. As for those who in former days settled here, and have been united to us by marriage, and as for their offspring, this is their native land. We cannot think you so unjust as to wish that we should slay our parents, our brothers, and our children. All duties and restrictions on trade we repeal. Let there be a free passage across the river, but let it be during the day-time and for persons unarmed, till the new and recent privileges assume by usage the stability of time. As arbiters between us we will have Civilis and Veleda; under their sanction the treaty shall be ratified.” The Tencteri were thus appeased, and ambassadors were sent with presents to Civilis and Veleda, who settled everything to the satisfaction of the inhabitants of the Colony. They were not, however, allowed to approach or address Veleda herself. In order to inspire them with more respect they were prevented from seeing her. She dwelt in a lofty tower, and one of her relatives, chosen for the purpose, conveyed, like the messenger of a divinity, the questions and answers.
Thus strengthened by his alliance with the Colonia Agrippinensis, Civilis resolved to attach to himself the neighbouring States, or to make war on them if they offered any opposition. He occupied the territory of the Sunici, and formed the youth of the country into regular cohorts. To hinder his further advance, Claudius Labeo encountered him with a hastily assembled force of Betasii, Tungri, and Nervii, relying on the strength of his position, as he had occupied a bridge over the river Mosa. They fought in a narrow defile without any decided result, till the Germans swam across and attacked Labeo’s rear. At the same moment, Civilis, acting either on some bold impulse or by a preconcerted plan, rushed into the Tungrian column, exclaiming in a loud voice, “We have not taken up arms in order that the Batavi and Treveri may rule over the nations. Far from us be such arrogance! Accept our alliance. I am ready to join your ranks, whether you would prefer me to be your general or your comrade.” The multitude was moved by the appeal, and were beginning to sheathe their swords, when Campanus and Juvenalis, two of the Tungrian chieftains, surrendered the whole tribe to Civilis. Labeo made his escape before he could be intercepted. The Betasii and Nervii, also capitulating, were incorporated by Civilis into his army. He now commanded vast resources, as the States were either completely cowed, or else were naturally inclined in his favour.
Meanwhile Julius Sabinus, after having thrown down the pillars that recorded the treaty with Rome, bade his followers salute him as Emperor, and hastened at the head of a large and undisciplined crowd of his countrymen to attack the Sequani, a neighbouring people, still faithful to Rome. The Sequani did not decline the contest. Fortune favoured the better cause, and the Lingones were defeated. Sabinus fled from the battle with a cowardice equal to the rashness with which he had precipitated it, and, in order to spread a report of his death, he set fire to a country-house where he had taken refuge. It was believed that he there perished by a death of his own seeking. The various shifts by which he contrived to conceal himself and to prolong his life for nine years, the firm fidelity of his friends, and the noble example of his wife Epponina, I shall relate in their proper place. By this victory of the Sequani the tide of war was stayed. The States began by degrees to recover their senses, and to reflect on the claims of justice and of treaties. The Remi were foremost in this movement, announcing throughout Gaul that deputies were to be sent to consult in common assembly whether they should make freedom or peace their object.
At Rome report exaggerated all these disasters, and disturbed Mucianus with the fear that the generals, though distinguished men (for he had already appointed Gallus Annius and Petilius Cerialis to the command), would be unequal to the weight of so vast a war. Yet the capital could not be left without a ruler, and men feared the ungoverned passions of Domitian, while Primus Antonius and Varus Arrius were also, as I have said, objects of suspicion. Varus, who had been made commander of the Praetorian Guard, had still at his disposal much military strength. Mucianus ejected him from his office, and, not to leave him without consolation, made him superintendent of the sale of corn. To pacify the feelings of Domitian, which were not unfavourable to Varus, he appointed Arretinus Clemens, who was closely connected with the house of Vespasian, and who was also a great favourite with Domitian, to the command of the Praetorian Guard, alleging that his father, in the reign of Caligula, had admirably discharged the duties of that office. The old name he said, would please the soldiers, and Clemens himself, though on the roll of Senators, would be equal to both duties. He selected the most eminent men in the State to accompany him, while others were appointed through interest. At the same time Domitian and Mucianus prepared to set out, but in a very different mood; Domitian in all the hope and impatience of youth, Mucianus ever contriving delays to check his ardent companion, who, he feared, were he to intrude himself upon the army, might be led by the recklessness of youth or by bad advisers to compromise at once the prospects of war and of peace. Two of the victorious legions, the 6th and 8th, the 21st, which belonged to the Vitellianist army, the 2nd, which consisted of new levies, were marched into Gaul, some over the Penine and Cottian, some over the Graian Alps. The 14th legion was summoned from Britain, and the 6th and 10th from Spain. Thus rumours of an advancing army, as well as their own temper, inclined the States of Gaul which assembled in the country of the Remi to more peaceful counsels. Envoys from the Treveri were awaiting them there, and among them Tullius Valentinus, the most vehement promoter of the war, who in a set speech poured forth all the charges usually made against great empires, and levelled against the Roman people many insulting and exasperating expressions. The man was a turbulent fomenter of sedition, and pleased many by his frantic eloquence.
On the other hand Julius Auspex, one of the leading chieftains among the Remi, dwelt on the power of Rome and the advantages of peace. Pointing out that war might be commenced indeed by cowards, but must be carried on at the peril of the braver spirits, and that the Roman legions were close at hand, he restrained the most prudent by considerations of respect and loyalty, and held back the younger by representations of danger and appeals to fear. The result was, that, while they extolled the spirit of Valentinus, they followed the counsels of Auspex. It is certain that the Treveri and Lingones were injured in the eyes of the Gallic nations by their having sided with Verginius in the movement of Vindex. Many were deterred by the mutual jealousy of the provinces. “Where,” they asked, “could a head be found for the war? Where could they look for civil authority, and the sanction of religion? If all went well with them, what city could they select as the seat of empire?” The victory was yet to be gained; dissension had already begun. One State angrily boasted of its alliances, another of its wealth and military strength, or of the antiquity of its origin. Disgusted with the prospect of the future, they acquiesced in their present condition. Letters were written to the Treveri in the name of the States of Gaul, requiring them to abstain from hostilities, and reminding them that pardon might yet be obtained, and that friends were ready to intercede for them, should they repent. Valentinus still opposed, and succeeded in closing the ears of his countrymen to this advice, though he was not so diligent in preparing for war as he was assiduous in haranguing.
Accordingly neither the Treveri, the Lingones, nor the other revolted States, took measures at all proportioned to the magnitude of the peril they had incurred. Even their generals did not act in concert. Civilis was traversing the pathless wilds of the Belgae in attempting to capture Claudius Labeo, or to drive him out of the country. Classicus for the most part wasted his time in indolent repose, as if he had only to enjoy an empire already won. Even Tutor made no haste to occupy with troops the upper bank of the Rhine and the passes of the Alps. Meanwhile the 21st legion, by way of Vindonissa, and Sextilius Felix with the auxiliary infantry, by way of Rhaetia, penetrated into the province. They were joined by the Singularian Horse, which had been raised some time before by Vitellius, and had afterwards gone over to the side of Vespasian. Their commanding officer was Julius Briganticus. He was sister’s son to Civilis, and he was hated by his uncle and hated him in return with all the extreme bitterness of a family feud. Tutor, having augmented the army of the Treveri with fresh levies from the Vangiones, the Caeracates, and the Triboci, strengthened it with a force of veteran infantry and cavalry, men from the legions whom he had either corrupted by promises or overborne by intimidation. Their first act was to cut to pieces a cohort, which had been sent on in advance by Sextilius Felix; soon afterwards, however, on the approach of the Roman generals at the head of their army, they returned to their duty by an act of honourable desertion, and the Triboci, Vangiones, and Caeracates, followed their example. Avoiding Mogontiacum, Tutor retired with the Treveri to Bingium, trusting to the strength of the position, as he had broken down the bridge over the river Nava. A sudden attack, however, was made by the infantry under the command of Sextilius; a ford was discovered, and he found himself betrayed and routed. The Treveri were panicstricken by this disaster, and the common people threw down their arms, and dispersed themselves through the country. Some of the chiefs, anxious to seem the first to cease from hostilities, fled to those States which had not renounced the Roman alliance. The legions, which had been removed, as I have before related, from Novesium and Bonna to the territory of the Treveri, voluntarily swore allegiance to Vespasian. These proceedings took place in the absence of Valentinus. When he returned, full of fury and bent on again throwing everything into confusion and ruin, the legions withdrew to the Mediomatrici, a people in alliance with Rome. Valentinus and Tutor again involved the Treveri in war, and murdered the two legates, Herennius and Numisius, that by diminishing the hope of pardon they might strengthen the bond of crime.
Such was the state of the war, when Petilius Cerialis reached Mogontiacum. Great expectations were raised by his arrival. Eager for battle, and more ready to despise than to be on his guard against the enemy, he fired the spirit of the troops by his bold language; for he would, he said, fight without a moment’s delay, as soon as it was possible to meet the foe. The levies which had been raised in Gaul he ordered back to their respective States, with instructions to proclaim that the legions sufficed to defend the Empire, and that the allies might return to the duties of peace, secure in the thought that a war which Roman arms had undertaken was finished. This proceeding strengthened the loyalty of the Gauls. Now that their youth were restored to them they could more easily bear the burden of the tribute; and, finding themselves despised, they were more ready to obey. Civilis and Classicus, having heard of the defeat of Tutor and of the rout of the Treveri, and indeed of the complete success of the enemy, hastened in their alarm to concentrate their own scattered forces, and meanwhile sent repeated messages to Valentinus, warning him not to risk a decisive battle. This made Cerialis move with more rapidity. He sent to the Mediomatrici persons commissioned to conduct the legions which were there by the shortest route against the enemy; and, collecting such troops as there were at Mogontiacum and such as he had brought with himself, he arrived in three days’ march at Rigodulum. Valentinus, at the head of a large body of Treveri, had occupied this position, which was protected by hills, and by the river Mosella. He had also strengthened it with ditches and breastworks of stones. These defences, however, did not deter the Roman general from ordering his infantry to the assault, and making his cavalry advance up the hill; he scorned the enemy, whose forces, hastily levied, could not, he knew, derive any advantage from their position, but what would be more than counterbalanced by the courage of his own men. There was some little delay in the ascent, while the troops were passing through the range of the enemy’s missiles. As soon as they came to close fighting, the barbarians were dislodged and hurled like a falling house from their position. A detachment of the cavalry rode round where the hills were less steep, and captured the principal Belgic chiefs, and among them Valentinus, their general.
On the following day Cerialis entered the Colony of the Treveri. The soldiers were eager to destroy the city. “This,” they said, “is the birthplace of Classicus and Tutor; it was by the treason of these men that our legions were besieged and massacred. What had Cremona done like this, Cremona which was torn from the very bosom of Italy, because it had occasioned to the conquerors the delay of a single night? Here on the borders of Germany stands unharmed a city which exults in the spoils of our armies and the blood of our generals. Let the plunder be brought into the Imperial treasury; we shall be satisfied with the fire that will destroy a rebellious colony and compensate for the overthrow of so many camps.” Cerialis, fearing the disgrace of being thought to have imbued his soldiers with a spirit of licence and cruelty, checked their fury. They submitted, for, now that civil war was at an end, they were tractable enough in dealing with an enemy. Their thoughts were then diverted by the pitiable aspect of the legions which had been summoned from the Mediomatrici. They stood oppressed by the consciousness of guilt, their eyes fixed on the earth. No friendly salutations passed between the armies as they met, they made no answer to those who would console or encourage them, but hid themselves in their tents, and shrank from the very light of day. Nor was it so much their peril or their alarm that confounded them, as their shame and humiliation. Even the conquerors were struck dumb, and dared not utter a word of entreaty, but pleaded for pardon by their silent tears, till Cerialis at last soothed their minds by declaring that destiny had brought about all that had happened through the discords of soldiers and generals or through the treachery of the foe. They must consider that day as the first of their military service and of their allegiance. Their past crimes would be remembered neither by the Emperor nor by himself. They were thus admitted into the same camp with the rest, and an order was read in every company, that no soldier was in any contention or altercation to reproach a comrade with mutiny or defeat.
Cerialis then convoked an assembly of the Treveri and Lingones, and thus addressed them: “I have never cultivated eloquence; it is by my sword that I have asserted the excellence of the Roman people. Since, however, words have very great weight with you, since you estimate good and evil, not according to their real value, but according to the representations of seditious men, I have resolved to say a few words, which, as the war is at an end, it may be useful for you to have heard rather than for me to have spoken. Roman generals and Emperors entered your territory, as they did the rest of Gaul, with no ambitious purposes, but at the solicitation of your ancestors, who were wearied to the last extremity by intestine strife, while the Germans, whom they had summoned to their help, had imposed their yoke alike on friend and foe. How many battles we have fought against the Cimbri and Teutones, at the cost of what hardships to our armies, and with what result we have waged our German wars, is perfectly well known. It was not to defend Italy that we occupied the borders of the Rhine, but to insure that no second Ariovistus should seize the empire of Gaul. Do you fancy yourselves to be dearer in the eyes of Civilis and the Batavi and the Transrhenane tribes, than your fathers and grandfathers were to their ancestors? There have ever been the same causes at work to make the Germans cross over into Gaul, lust, avarice, and the longing for a new home, prompting them to leave their own marshes and deserts, and to possess themselves of this most fertile soil and of you its inhabitants. Liberty, indeed, and the like specious names are their pretexts; but never did any man seek to enslave his fellows and secure dominion for himself, without using the very same words.
“Gaul always had its petty kingdoms and intestine wars, till you submitted to our authority. We, though so often provoked, have used the right of conquest to burden you only with the cost of maintaining peace. For the tranquillity of nations cannot be preserved without armies; armies cannot exist without pay; pay cannot be furnished without tribute; all else is common between us. You often command our legions. You rule these and other provinces. There is no privilege, no exclusion. From worthy Emperors you derive equal advantage, though you dwell so far away, while cruel rulers are most formidable to their neighbours. Endure the passions and rapacity of your masters, just as you bear barren seasons and excessive rains and other natural evils. There will be vices as long as there are men. But they are not perpetual, and they are compensated by the occurrence of better things. Perhaps, however, you expect a milder rule under Tutor and Classicus, and fancy that armies to repel the Germans and the Britons will be furnished by less tribute than you now pay. Should the Romans be driven out (which God forbid) what can result but wars between all these nations? By the prosperity and order of eight hundred years has this fabric of empire been consolidated, nor can it be overthrown without destroying those who overthrow it. Yours will be the worst peril, for you have gold and wealth, and these are the chief incentives to war. Give therefore your love and respect to the cause of peace, and to that capital in which we, conquerors and conquered, claim an equal right. Let the lessons of fortune in both its forms teach you not to prefer rebellion and ruin to submission and safety.” With words to this effect he quieted and encouraged his audience, who feared harsher treatment.
The territory of the Treveri was occupied by the victorious army, when Civilis and Classicus sent letters to Cerialis, the purport of which was as follows: “Vespasian, though the news is suppressed, is dead. Rome and Italy are thoroughly wasted by intestine war. Mucianus and Domitian are mere empty and powerless names. If Cerialis wishes for the empire of Gaul, we can be content with the boundaries of our own States. If he prefers to fight, we do not refuse that alternative.” Cerialis sent no answer to Civilis and Classicus, but despatched the bearer and the letter itself to Domitian. The enemy advanced from every quarter in several bodies. Cerialis was generally censured for allowing them to unite, when he might have destroyed them in detail. The Roman army surrounded their camp with a fosse and rampart, for up to that time they had been rash enough to occupy it without any defence. Among the Germans there was a conflict of opinions.
Civilis said: “We must await the arrival of the Transrhenane tribes, the terror of whose name will break down the shattered strength of Rome. As for the Gauls, what are they but the prey of the conqueror? And yet the chief strength of the nation, the Belgae, are with us, either openly, or in heart.” Tutor maintained that the power of Rome would only increase with delay, as her armies were assembling from all quarters. “One legion,” he said, “has already been brought over from Britain; others have been summoned from Spain, or are advancing from Italy. Nor are these troops newly raised levies, but they are veteran soldiers, experienced in war. But the Germans, whom we are expecting, do not obey orders, and cannot be controlled, but always act according to their own caprice. The money too and other presents by which alone they can be bribed are more plentiful among the Romans, and no one can be so bent on fighting as not to prefer repose to peril, when the profit is the same. But if we at once meet the foe, Cerialis has no legions but those that survive from the wreck of the German army, and these are bound by treaties to the States of Gaul. And the very fact of their having, contrary to their expectations, lately routed the undisciplined force of Valentinus will confirm in their rashness both them and their general. They will venture again, and will find themselves in the hands, not of an ignorant stripling, whose thoughts were of speeches and harangues rather than of battle and the sword, but in those of Civilis and Classicus, whom when they once behold they will be reminded of panic, of flight, of famine, and of the many times when as captives they had to beg for life. Nor are the Treveri and Lingones bound by any ties of affection; once let their fear cease, and they will resume their arms.” Classicus put an end to these differences of opinion by giving his approval to the suggestions of Tutor, which were at once acted on.
The centre was the post assigned to the Ubii and Lingones. On the right were the Batavian cohorts; on the left the Bructeri and the Tencteri. One division marching over the hills, another passing between the highroad and the river Mosella, made the attack with such suddenness, that Cerialis, who had not slept in the camp, was in his chamber and even in his bed, when he heard at the same moment that the battle had begun, and that his men were being worsted. He rebuked the alarm of the messengers, till the whole extent of the disaster became visible, and he saw that the camp of the legions had been forced, that the cavalry were routed, that the bridge over the Mosella, which connected the farther bank of the river with the Colony, was held by the Germans. Undismayed by the confusion, Cerialis held back the fugitives with his own hand, and readily exposing himself, with his person entirely unprotected, to the missiles of the enemy, he succeeded by a daring and successful effort, with the prompt aid of his bravest soldiers, in recovering the bridge and holding it with a picked force. Then returning to the camp, he saw the broken companies of the legions, which had been captured at Bonna and Novesium, with but few soldiers round the standards, and the eagles all but surrounded by the foe. Fired with indignation, he exclaimed, “It is not Flaccus or Vocula, whom you are thus abandoning. There is no treachery here; I have nothing to excuse but that I rashly believed that you, forgetting your alliance with Gaul, had again recollected your allegiance to Rome. I shall be added to the number of the Numisii and Herennii, so that all your commanders will have fallen by the hands of their soldiers or of the enemy. Go, tell Vespasian, or, since they are nearer, Civilis and Classicus, that you have deserted your general on the battlefield. Legions will come who will not leave me unavenged or you unpunished.”
All this was true, and the tribunes and prefects heaped on their men the same reproaches. The troops formed themselves in cohorts and companies, for they could not deploy into line; as the enemy were scattered everywhere, while from the fact that the battle was raging within the entrenchments, they were themselves hampered with their tents and baggage. Tutor, Classicus, and Civilis, each at his post, animated the combatants; the Gauls they urged to fight for freedom, the Batavi for glory, the Germans for plunder. Everything seemed in favour of the enemy, till the 21st legion, having more room than the others, formed itself into a compact body, withstood, and soon drove back the assailants. Nor was it without an interposition of heaven, that by a sudden change of temper the conquerors turned their backs and fled. Their own account was, that they were alarmed by the sight of the cohorts, which, after being broken at the first onset, rallied on the top of the hills, and presented the appearance of reinforcements. What checked them in their course of victory was a mischievous struggle among themselves to secure plunder while they forgot the enemy. Cerialis, having thus all but ruined everything by his carelessness, restored the day by his resolution; following up his success, he took and destroyed the enemy’s camp on the same day.
No long time was allowed to the soldiers for repose. The Agrippinenses were begging for help, and were offering to give up the wife and sister of Civilis and the daughter of Classicus, who had been left with them as pledges for the maintenance of the alliance. In the meanwhile they had massacred all the Germans who were scattered throughout their dwellings. Hence their alarm and reasonable importunity in begging for help, before the enemy, recovering their strength, could raise their spirits for a new effort or for thoughts of revenge. And indeed Civilis had marched in their direction, nor was he by any means weak, as he had still, in unbroken force, the most warlike of his cohorts, which consisted of Chauci and Frisii, and which was posted at Tolbiacum, on the frontiers of the Agrippinenses. He was, however, diverted from his purpose by the deplorable news that this cohort had been entirely destroyed by a stratagem of the Agrippinenses, who, having stupefied the Germans by a profuse entertainment and abundance of wine, fastened the doors, set fire to the houses, and burned them. At the same time Cerialis advanced by forced marches, and relieved the city. Civilis too was beset by other fears. He was afraid that the 14th legion, supported by the fleet from Britain, might do mischief to the Batavi along their line of coast. The legion was, however, marched overland under the command of Fabius Priscus into the territory of the Nervii and Tungri, and these two states were allowed to capitulate. The Canninefates, taking the offensive, attacked our fleet, and the larger part of the ships was either sunk or captured. The same tribe also routed a crowd of Nervii, who by a spontaneous movement had taken up arms on the Roman side. Classicus also gained a victory over some cavalry, who had been sent on to Novesium by Cerialis. These reverses, which, though trifling, came in rapid succession, destroyed by degrees the prestige of the recent victory.
About the same time Mucianus ordered the son of Vitellius to be put to death, alleging that dissension would never cease, if he did not destroy all seeds of civil war. Nor would he suffer Antonius Primus to be taken into the number of Domitian’s attendants, for he felt uneasy at his popularity with the troops, and feared the proud spirit of the man, who could not endure an equal, much less a superior. Antonius then went to Vespasian, who received him, not indeed as he expected, but in a not unfriendly spirit. Two opposite influences acted on the Emperor; on the one hand were the merits of Antonius, under whose conduct the war had beyond all doubt been terminated; on the other, were the letters of Mucianus. And everyone else inveighed against him, as an ill-affected and conceited man, nor did they forget the scandals of his early life. Antonius himself failed not to provoke offence by his arrogance and his excessive propensity to dwell on his own services. He reproached other men with being cowards; Caecina he stigmatized as a captive and a prisoner of war. Thus by degrees he came to be thought of less weight and worth, though his friendship with the Emperor to all appearance remained the same.
In the months during which Vespasian was waiting at Alexandria for the periodical return of the summer gales and settled weather at sea, many wonders occurred which seemed to point him out as the object of the favour of heaven and of the partiality of the Gods. One of the common people of Alexandria, well known for his blindness, threw himself at the Emperor’s knees, and implored him with groans to heal his infirmity. This he did by the advice of the God Serapis, whom this nation, devoted as it is to many superstitions, worships more than any other divinity. He begged Vespasian that he would deign to moisten his cheeks and eye-balls with his spittle. Another with a diseased hand, at the counsel of the same God, prayed that the limb might feet the print of a Caesar’s foot. At first Vespasian ridiculed and repulsed them. They persisted; and he, though on the one hand he feared the scandal of a fruitless attempt, yet, on the other, was induced by the entreaties of the men and by the language of his flatterers to hope for success. At last he ordered that the opinion of physicians should be taken, as to whether such blindness and infirmity were within the reach of human skill. They discussed the matter from different points of view. “In the one case,” they said, “the faculty of sight was not wholly destroyed, and might return, if the obstacies were removed; in the other case, the limb, which had fallen into a diseased condition, might be restored, if a healing influence were applied; such, perhaps, might be the pleasure of the Gods, and the Emperor might be chosen to be the minister of the divine will; at any rate, all the glory of a successful remedy would be Caesar’s, while the ridicule of failure would fall on the sufferers.” And so Vespasian, supposing that all things were possible to his good fortune, and that nothing was any longer past belief, with a joyful countenance, amid the intense expectation of the multitude of bystanders, accomplished what was required. The hand was instantly restored to its use, and the light of day again shone upon the blind. Persons actually present attest both facts, even now when nothing is to be gained by falsehood.
Vespasian thus came to conceive a deeper desire to visit the sanctuary of Serapis, that he might consult the God about the interests of his throne. He gave orders that all persons should be excluded from the temple. He had entered, and was absorbed in worship, when he saw behind him one of the chief men of Egypt, named Basilides, whom he knew at the time to be detained by sickness at a considerable distance, as much as several days journey from Alexandria. He enquired of the priests, whether Basilides had on this day entered the temple. He enquired of others whom he met, whether he had been seen in the city. At length, sending some horsemen, he ascertained that at that very instant the man had been eighty miles distant. He then concluded that it was a divine apparition, and discovered an oracular force in the name of Basilides.
The origin of this God Serapis has not hitherto been made generally known by our writers. The Egyptian priests give this account. While Ptolemy, the first Macedonian king who consolidated the power of Egypt, was setting up in the newly-built city of Alexandria fortifications, temples, and rites of worship, there appeared to him in his sleep a youth of singular beauty and more than human stature, who counselled the monarch to send his most trusty friends to Pontus, and fetch his effigy from that country. This, he said, would bring prosperity to the realm, and great and illustrious would be the city which gave it a reception. At the same moment he saw the youth ascend to heaven in a blaze of fire. Roused by so significant and strange an appearance, Ptolemy disclosed the vision of the night to the Egyptian priests, whose business it is to understand such matters. As they knew but little of Pontus or of foreign countries, he enquired of Timotheus, an Athenian, one of the family of the Eumolpids, whom he had invited from Eleusis to preside over the sacred rites, what this worship was, and who was the deity. Timotheus, questioning persons who had found their way to Pontus, learnt that there was there a city Sinope, and near it a temple, which, according to an old tradition of the neighbourhood, was sacred to the infernal Jupiter, for there also stood close at hand a female figure, to which many gave the name of Proserpine. Ptolemy, however, with the true disposition of a despot, though prone to alarm, was, when the feeling of security returned, more intent on pleasures than on religious matters; and he began by degrees to neglect the affair, and to turn his thoughts to other concerns, till at length the same apparition, but now more terrible and peremptory, denounced ruin against the king and his realm, unless his bidding were performed. Ptolemy then gave directions that an embassy should be despatched with presents to king Scydrothemis, who at that time ruled the people of Sinope, and instructed them, when they were on the point of sailing, to consult the Pythian Apollo. Their voyage was prosperous, and the response of the oracle was clear. The God bade them go and carry back with them the image of his father, but leave that of his sister behind.
On their arrival at Sinope, they delivered to Scydrothemis the presents from their king, with his request and message. He wavered in purpose, dreading at one moment the anger of the God, terrified at another by the threats and opposition of the people. Often he was wrought upon by the gifts and promises of the ambassadors. And so three years passed away, while Ptolemy did not cease to urge his zealous solicitations. He continued to increase the dignity of his embassies, the number of his ships, and the weight of his gold. A terrible vision then appeared to Scydrothemis, warning him to thwart no longer the purposes of the God. As he yet hesitated, various disasters, pestilence, and the unmistakable anger of heaven, which grew heavier from day to day, continued to harass him. He summoned an assembly, and explained to them the bidding of the God, the visions of Ptolemy and himself, and the miseries that were gathering about them. The people turned away angrily from their king, were jealous of Egypt, and, fearing for themselves, thronged around the temple. The story becomes at this point more marvellous, and relates that the God of his own will conveyed himself on board the fleet, which had been brought close to shore, and, wonderful to say, vast as was the extent of sea that they traversed, they arrived at Alexandria on the third day. A temple, proportioned to the grandeur of the city, was erected in a place called Rhacotis, where there had stood a chapel consecrated in old times to Serapis and Isis. Such is the most popular account of the origin and introduction of the God Serapis. I am aware indeed that there are some who say that he was brought from Seleucia, a city of Syria, in the reign of Ptolemy III., while others assert that it was the act of the same king, but that the place from which he was brought was Memphis, once a famous city and the strength of ancient Egypt. The God himself, because he heals the sick, many identified with Aesculapius; others with Osiris, the deity of the highest antiquity among these nations; not a few with Jupiter, as being supreme ruler of all things; but most people with Pluto, arguing from the emblems which may be seen on his statues, or from conjectures of their own.
Domitian and Mucianus received, before they reached the Alps, favourable news of the operations among the Treveri. The best proof of the victory was seen in the enemy’s general Valentinus, who with undaunted courage shewed in his look his habitual high spirit. He was heard, but only that they might judge of his character; and he was condemned. During his execution he replied to one who taunted him with the subjection of his country, “That I take as my consolation in death.” Mucianus now brought forward as a new thought a plan he had long concealed. “Since,” he said, “by the blessing of the Gods the strength of the enemy has been broken, it would little become Domitian, now that the war is all but finished, to interfere with the glory of others. If the stability of the Empire or the safety of Gaul were in danger, it would have been right for Caesar to take his place in the field; but the Canninefates and Batavi should be handed over to inferior generals. Let the Emperor display from the near neighbourhood of Lugdunum the might and prestige of imperial power, not meddling with trifling risks, though he would not be wanting on greater occasions.”
His artifices were understood, but it was a part of their respect not to expose them. Thus they arrived at Lugdunum. It is believed that from this place Domitian despatched secret emissaries to Cerialis, and tempted his loyalty with the question whether, on his shewing himself, he would hand over to him the command of the army. Whether in this scheme Domitian was thinking of war with his father, or of collecting money, and men to be used against his brother, was uncertain; for Cerialis, by a judicious temporising, eluded the request as prompted by an idle and childish ambition. Domitian, seeing that his youth was despised by the older officers, gave up even the less important functions of government which he had before exercised. Under a semblance of simple and modest tastes, he wrapped himself in a profound reserve, and affected a devotion to literature and a love of poetry, thus seeking to throw a veil over his character, and to withdraw himself from the jealousy of his brother, of whose milder temper, so unlike his own, he judged most falsely.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55