The peace was beginning to be broken by wars with the Germans; and young Drusus was commanding the army against them, and gaining such honor that he was called Germanicus, when he fell from his horse and died of his injuries, leaving one young son. He was buried at Rome, and his brother Tiberius walked all the way beside the bier, with his long flaxen hair flowing on his shoulders. Tiberius then went back to command the armies on the Rhine. Some half-conquered country lay beyond, and the Germans in the forests were at this time under a brave leader called Arminius. They were attacked by the proconsul Quinctilius Varus, and near the river Ems, in the Herycimian forest, Arminius turned on him and routed him completely, cutting off the whole army, so that only a few fled back to Tiberius to tell the tale, and he had to fall back and defend the Rhine.
The news of this disaster was a terrible shock to the Emperor. He sat grieving over it, and at times he dashed his head against the wall, crying, “Varus, Varus! give me back my legions.” His friends were dead, he was an old man now, and sadness was around him. He was soon, however, grave and composed again; and, as his health began to fail, he sent for Tiberius and put his affairs into his hands. When his dying day came, he met it calmly. He asked if there was any fear of a tumult on his death, and was told there was none; then he called for a mirror, and saw that his grey hair and beard were in order, and, asking his friends whether he had played his part well, he uttered a verse from a play bidding them applaud his exit, bade Livia remember him, and so died in his seventy-seventh year, having ruled fifty-eight years—ten as a triumvir, forty-eight alone.
TIBERIUS AND CALIGULA.
No difficulty was made about giving all the powers Augustus had held to his stepson, Tiberius Claudius Nero, who had also a right to the names of Julius Caesar Augustus, and was in his own time generally called Caesar. The Senate had grown too helpless to think for themselves, and all the choice they ever made of the consuls was that the Emperor gave out four names, among which they chose two.
Tiberius had been a grave, morose man ever since he was deprived of the wife he loved, and had lost his brother; and he greatly despised the mean, cringing ways round him, and kept to himself; but his nephew, called Germanicus, after his father, was the person whom every one loved and trusted. He had married Agrippina, Julia’s daughter, who was also a very good and noble person; and when he was sent against the Germans, she went with him, and her little boys ran about among the soldiers, and were petted by them. One of them, Caius, was called by the soldiers Caligula, or the Little Shoe, because he wore a caliga or shoe like theirs; and he never lost the nickname.