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Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 352 pages of information about Tacitus.

After the arrival of these veteran cohorts Civilis was now at the 21 head of a respectable army.  But being still uncertain of his plans, and engaged in reckoning up the Roman forces, he made all who were with him swear allegiance to Vespasian, and sent envoys to the two legions, who after their defeat in the former engagement[299] had retired into Vetera, asking them to take the same oath.  The answer came back that they never followed the advice either of a traitor or of an enemy:  Vitellius was their emperor, and they would keep their allegiance and their arms for him so long as they had breath in their bodies.  A Batavian deserter need not try to decide the destiny of Rome; he should rather expect the punishment he richly deserved.  When this was reported to Civilis he flew into a passion, and called the whole Batavian people to take arms.  They were joined by the Bructeri and Tencteri,[300] and Germany was summoned to come and share the plunder and the glory.

Threatened with this gathering storm, Munius Lupercus and Numisius 22 Rufus, who were in command of the two legions, proceeded to strengthen the ramparts and walls.  They pulled down the buildings near the military camp, which had grown into a small town during the long years of peace, fearing that the enemy might make use of them.  But they omitted to provide a sufficient store of provisions for the camp, and authorized the soldiers to make up the deficiency by looting, with the result that what might have supplied their needs for a long time was consumed in a few days.  Meanwhile Civilis advanced, himself holding the centre with the flower of the Batavi:  on both banks of the Rhine he massed large bands of Germans to strike terror into the enemy:  the cavalry galloped through the fields, while the ships were simultaneously moved up the stream.  Here could be seen the colours of veteran Roman cohorts, there the figures of beasts which the Germans had brought from their woods and groves, as their tribes do when they go to battle.  It seemed both a civil and a savage war at once; and this strange confusion astounded the besieged.  The hopes of the assailants rose when they saw the circumference of the ramparts, for there were barely five thousand Roman soldiers to defend a camp which had been laid out to hold two legions.[301] However, a large number of camp-followers had collected there on the break-up of peace, and remained to give what assistance they could to the military operations.

The camp was built partly on the gentle slope of a hill and partly 23 on the level ground.  Augustus had believed that it would serve as a base of operations and a check upon the German tribes:  as for their actually coming to assault our legions, such a disaster never occurred to him.  Consequently no trouble had been taken in choosing the site or erecting defences:  the strength of the troops had always seemed sufficient.

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