Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Tacitus.
assured.  Finding the forts now threatened with destruction, the Roman officers set fire to them, as they had no means of defence.  All the troops with their standards and colours retired in a body to the upper end of the island, led by Aquilius, a senior centurion.  But they were an army in name only, not in strength, for Vitellius had withdrawn all the efficient soldiers and had replaced them by a useless mob, who had been drawn from the neighbouring Nervian and German villages and were only embarrassed by their armour.[282]

Civilis thought it best to proceed by guile, and actually ventured 16 to blame the Roman officers for abandoning the forts.  He could, he told them, with the cohort under his command, suppress the outbreak of the Canninefates without their assistance:  they could all go back to their winter-quarters.  However, it was plain that some treachery underlay his advice—­it would be easier to crush the cohorts if they were separated—­and also that Civilis, not Brinno, was at the head of this war.  Evidence of this gradually leaked out, as the Germans loved war too well to keep the secret for long.  Finding his artifice unsuccessful, Civilis tried force instead, forming the Canninefates, Frisii and Batavi into three separate columns.[283] The Roman line faced them in position near the Rhine bank.[284] They had brought their ships there after the burning of the forts, and these were now turned with their prows towards the enemy.  Soon after the engagement began a Tungrian cohort deserted to Civilis, and the Romans were so startled by this unexpected treachery that they were cut to pieces by their allies and their enemies combined.  Similar treachery occurred in the fleet.  Some of the rowers, who were Batavians, feigning clumsiness tried to impede the sailors and marines in the performance of their functions, and after a while openly resisted them and turned the ships’ sterns towards the enemy’s bank.  Finally, they killed the pilots and centurions who refused to join them, and thus all the twenty-four ships of the flotilla either deserted to the enemy or were captured by them.

This victory made Civilis immediately famous and proved 17 subsequently very useful.  Having now got the ships and the weapons which they needed, he and his followers were enthusiastically proclaimed as champions of liberty throughout Germany and Gaul.  The German provinces immediately sent envoys with offers of help, while Civilis endeavoured by diplomacy and by bribery to secure an alliance with the Gauls.  He sent back the auxiliary officers whom he had taken prisoner, each to his own tribe, and offered the cohorts the choice of either going home or remaining with him.  Those who remained were given an honourable position in his army:  and those who went home received presents out of the Roman spoil.  At the same time Civilis talked to them confidentially and reminded them of the miseries they had endured for all these years, in which they

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Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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