Tacitus – The Annals, Book 1: 14-15 AD – 1.55‑71 The war in Germany.

1.55‑71 The war in Germany.

  1. Germanicus had a triump decreed for him even though the war continued. He spent most of his time preparing for the summer campaign but he made moves on the Chatti in the spring. He was hoping for a divide between 2 factions, represented by Arminius & Segestes. Arminius was the distrurber of Germany. Segestes told the Romans a rebellion was being organized & he advised Varus to arrest both him & Arminius, as well as other chiefs, because the people would try nothing without leaders & accusations could be sifted through. But Varus was killed by Arminius & the war between Arminius & Segestes continued. Arminius had taken Segestes’s daughter off even when she was betrothed to another man. This was a personal war between them.

  2. Germanicus sent Caecina with 4 legions & 5000 auxiliaries, where he established a fort on the Roman side of Mt. Taunus (in Hesse, Germany) & marched on the Chatti. Lucius Apronius was left to orchestrate construction of roads & bridges. Because it was a dry season, he was able to march quickly but feared the rains would flood the roads & rivers making his return difficult. But he came across the Chatti very quickly & killed or caught them all. The able-bodied among them swam across the Adrana (Eder) river as the Romans were building the bridge. They were driven back with arrows. Some sought refuge with Germanicus the rest went into the forests. Germanicus burned their capital, Mattium, & ravaged the open country. Then he moved back to the Rhine. Caecina was able to scare off the Chatti’s allies, the Cherusci, & defeat the Marsi.

  3. Envoys came from Segestes asking Rome for help against the violence of his countrymen. Among the barbarians, the more daring a man is, the more he inspires confidence & the more highly esteemed he is. Segestes sent his son, Segimundus with the envoys. He’d been a priest with the Ubii but stole the sacred garlands & fled to the rebels. He went with the envoys hoping to be forgiven by Rome & was well received. Germanicus marched his army back into battle, rescuing Segestes & his crew, including his daughter, Arminius’s wife. She did not seem repentant of her actions.

  4. Segestes was there too. He’d been a good ally to Rome. Augustus had given him Roman citizenship. He’d always looked out for his Roman friends because he felt the Germans & Romans had the same interests & peace is better than war. He had denounced Arminius to Varus. He wasn’t a fan of Varus because he would use the laws to protect him. He’d ask Varus to arrest him & Arminius to get to the bottom of the mess. Arminius & I were in chains. Now he wanted the chance to show his goodwill: preference of peace over commotion, not for a reward but to clear his name from accusations of treachery. He also wanted to be an advocate for the Germans who wanted the same as him. His daughter didn’t come here of her own accord. But they should know she was pregnant with Arminius’s child. Germanicus promised him & his family safety. He proposed the title of “Imperator” for Tiberius. Arminius’s wife gave birth to a boy to be raised in Ravenna.

  5. The report of the surrender & kind reception of Segestes was either heard with grief or hope, depending on the listener. Arminius flew off the handle hearing of his son’s “slavery”. He demanded a war against Segestes & Germanicus. He taunted them for being pushed around by a pregnant foreign woman despite their strong reputation & noble ranks. He would do worse to them than a pregnant woman. He still held many Roman standards. If Segestes wanted a life of servitude to the Romans, that’s fine, he could live outside of Germany. The Germans didn’t take kindly to invasions on their territories. If they weren’t afraid of Augustus, a young pip with a mutinous army was the subject of laughter. He preferred to live free than live a life of servitude to Rome.

  6. The Cherusci were inspired, as were neighboring tribes, attracting former Roman allies. Germanicus was getting nervous. He sent Caecina into the woods to distract the enemy while he sent the cavalry near the Frisii. The Chauci gave Rome aid. Lucius Stertinius was sent to the Bructeri to destroy them. He found the 19th Legion’s standard. They ravaged the whole area & found Varus’s unburied body among other dead Romans.

  7. Germanicus wanted to honor these dead soldiers. He sent Caecina to do recon in the forests & put down roads & bridges. They went to the camps of the slaughtered. They could piece together that there had been major fighting. The bones were strewn around, including those of the horses. Human heads were nailed to the trees & barbarian altars were set up. The bodies of high-ranking officials had been burned. They found Varus up & dead there, trying to protect the legion’s stand.

  8. The Roman army was now at the place where the 3 legions had been wiped out 6 years earlier. Nobody was able to identify the bodies so all the soldiers had to believe that some of them were their relatives. Germanicus laid the first sod on the dead, sharing the grief. Tiberius didn’t like this act, thinking it would slow down or upset the army to have to bury 3 whole legions.

  9. Germanicus pursued Arminius into the woods & sent his cavalry to scout the plains. Arminius had told his men to stay close to the woods & wheeled around for a concealed attack. The Roman cavalry was taken by surprise & was pushed into a swamp. Germanicus led his army back to the Armisia (Ems River) taking them by fleet & the cavalry was sent to the Rhine. Caecina was sent as quickly as possible by roads & bridges built by Lucius Domitius. Arminius now completely occupied the woods. But Caecina saw the bridges were extremely old, however he needed to hold back the enemy at the same time. He had some rebuild & some attack.

  10. The barbarians attacked outposts & engineering parties. The Romans had everything going against them. They had to march & work in the swamps while being attacked. They carried heavy packs & couldn’t aim at the enemy. The Cherusci, on the other hand, were quite comfortable with the circumstances & made solid attacks. Night provided the Romans with relief from the attacks. But the Germans re-routed streams on the hills to flood the land where the Romans were. Caecina was on his 40th campaign. He was no coward but he was running out of ideas for the present situations. He needed to evacuate the wound but fight off the enemy. He had half his troops lead the wounded out & the other half repel the Germans.

  11. That night was restless for both groups. The barbarians were having festivities throughout the night. The Romans were groaning in the entrenchments & men were wandering from tent to ten. It was wakeful for them rather than watchful. Germanicus had a nightmare where Varus came to him covered in blood, rising out of the swamps & calling out to him. In the dream, he did not obey the call & even pushed Varus’s hand away. That dawn, the legions on the wing deserted their position to go to the plain. But Arminius did not attack them. He went for the baggage train instead of the soldiers. The other Germans attacked but mostly just horses. The horses bucked off & trampled their riders. There was a great struggle for the Roman standards. Caecina found himself then horseless but the enemy went for the spoils instead of him. The Romans had lost all their digging equipment, tents & food. They had to sleep rough that night.

  12. A horses broke its halter & dashed around knocking men over. This noise made some believe that the Germans had broken into the camp. Caecina realized there was no cause for the alarm but couldn’t stop the panic. He threw himself on the ground at the exit. The tribune & centurions were able to convince others it was a false alarm.

  13. He assembled them at his headquarters & reminded them of the urgency of the situation. The Germans’ safety was in their arms which they had to use with discretion. The Romans had to stay in the entrenchments until the enemy came closer to storm them. Then the Romans would perform a general sortie that would propel them onward to the Rhine. If they fled, they’d be stuck in the woods & swamps.

  14. There was restlessness with the Germans. They were greedy for victory & spoils but the leadership had a split opinion about what to do. Arminius thought they should allow the Romans to leave their position & attack them in the swamp. Inguiomerus wanted to beleaguer the entrenchment & storm them. They’d get more prisoners & booty that way. They trampled in the fosses putting up hurdles over them & attacked where the Roman troop numbers were thin & paralyzed with fear. The Romans were organized & attacked the Germans in the rear. At this point, there were no woods or swamps. So the fighting was on equal ground with equal chances. Trumpets blasted, charging the Romans & panicking the Germans. They caught many half-armed men who were unprepared to retreat. Arminius fled unharmed. But Inguiomerus was severely wonder. Their followers were slaughtered. The Romans had won. While they still had wounds & little food, victory strengthened & healed them.

  15. A rumor had spread that the Romans had been cut off & the Germans were marching on Gaul. Had Agrippina not stopped the Rhine bridge from being destroyed, some cowards would have done the job. She held many of the duties of a general & distributed medicine & clothes to the soldiers. It’s said that she stood at the end of the bridge praising & thanking the soldiers as they crossed it. This left an impression on Tiberius. It was telling that she dressed her son as a Roman soldiers & asked for him to be called Caesar Caligula. She had done as much to put down the mutiny as anyone else did. Sejanus tried to plant seeds of hatred about her in Tiberius’s mind.

  16. Germanicus gave the 2nd & 14th legions to Publius Vitellius to be marched by land so the fleet could pass more easily over shoals. Vitellius initially moved unhindered but after a while, the sea swelled to the highest it could & the army was in disarray because of that. They couldn’t tell what was solid ground & what was quicksand. Men in the water were sucked down by eddies & the baggage train was destroyed. Those crossing rivers were in up to their heads, often losing their ground & falling underwater. Nothing about their character or intelligence helped them. It was all a matter of luck if they survived. Vitellius was able to get them to higher ground. They had little food, no fire & little clothing. To die this way would have been shameful. But they were able to make their way to the River Visurgis (Weser) to meet up with the fleet. A rumor had it that they had drowned.

  17. Stertinius had been sent to receive the surrender of Segimerus, brother of Segestes, & his son. They accepted Segimerus but were hesitant about his son since he had defiled Varus’s corpse. Gaul, Italy & Spain offered the army arms, horses & fold to bolster the army after its losses. Germanicus only accepted the arms & horses & paid the soldiers out of his own pocket. He did the rounds visiting the injured & sick soldiers.


Author: knowit68

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