Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Tacitus.
if they actually betrayed the Romans on the field.  Civilis set the standards of the defeated cohorts[292] round him in a ring to keep their fresh honours before the eyes of his men, and to terrify the enemy by reminding them of their disaster.  He also gave orders that his own mother and sisters and all the wives and small children of his soldiers should be stationed in the rear to spur them to victory or shame them if they were beaten.[293] When his line raised their battle-cry, the men singing and the women shrieking, the legions and their auxiliaries replied with a comparatively feeble cheer, for their left wing had been exposed by the desertion of the Batavian cavalry, who promptly turned against us.  However, despite the confusion, the legionaries gripped their swords and kept their places.  Then the Ubian and Treviran auxiliaries broke in shameful flight and went wandering all over the country.  The Germans pressed hard on their heels and meanwhile the legions could make good their escape into the camp, which was called ’Castra Vetera’.[294] Claudius Labeo, who commanded the Batavian cavalry, had opposed Civilis as a rival in some petty municipal dispute.  Civilis was afraid that, if he killed him, he might offend his countrymen, while if he spared him his presence would give rise to dissension; so he sent him off by sea to the Frisii.

It was at this time that the cohorts of Batavians and 19 Canninefates, on their way to Rome under orders from Vitellius, received the message which Civilis had sent to them.[295] They promptly fell into a ferment of unruly insolence and demanded a special grant as payment for their journey, double pay, and an increase in the number of their cavalry.[296] Although all these things had been promised by Vitellius they had no hope of obtaining them, but wanted an excuse for rebellion.  Flaccus made many concessions, but the only result was that they redoubled their vigour and demanded what they felt sure he would refuse.  Paying no further heed to him they made for Lower Germany, to join Civilis.  Flaccus summoned the tribunes and centurions and debated with them whether he should use force to punish this defiance of authority.  After a while he gave way to his natural cowardice and the fears of his subordinates, who were distressed by the thought that the loyalty of the auxiliaries was doubtful and that the legions had been recruited by a hurried levy.  It was decided, therefore, to keep the soldiers in camp.[297] However, he soon changed his mind when he found himself criticized by the very men whose advice he had taken.  He now seemed bent on pursuit, and wrote to Herennius Gallus in command of the First legion, who was holding Bonn, telling him to bar the path of the Batavians, and promising that he and his army would follow hard upon their heels.  The rebels might certainly have been crushed had Flaccus and Gallus each advanced their forces from opposite directions and thus surrounded them.  But Flaccus soon gave up the idea, and wrote another letter to Gallus, warning him to let the rebels pass undisturbed.  This gave rise to a suspicion that the generals were purposely promoting the war; and all the disasters which had already occurred or were feared in the future, were attributed not to the soldiers’ inefficiency or the strength of the enemy, but to the treachery of the generals.

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