Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Tacitus.
however, the Germans proved too much for them, and throughout the war the Ubii were always more conspicuous for good faith than good fortune.  Their collapse strengthened Civilis’ position, and emboldened by success, he now vigorously pressed on the blockade of the legions at Vetera, and redoubled his vigilance to prevent any message creeping through from the relieving army.  The Batavians were told off to look after the engines and siege-works:  the Germans, who clamoured for battle, were sent to demolish the rampart and renew the fight directly they were beaten off.  There were so many of them that their losses mattered little.

Nightfall did not see the end of their task.  They built huge fires 29 of wood all round the ramparts and sat drinking by them; then, as the wine warmed their hearts, one by one they dashed into the fight with blind courage.  In the darkness their missiles were ineffective, but the barbarian troops were clearly visible to the Romans, and any one whose daring or bright ornaments made him conspicuous at once became a mark for their aim.  At last Civilis saw their mistake, and gave orders to extinguish the fires and plunge the whole scene into a confusion of darkness and the din of arms.  Discordant shouts now arose:  everything was vague and uncertain:  no one could see to strike or to parry.  Wherever a shout was heard, they would wheel round and lunge in that direction.  Valour was useless:  chance and chaos ruled supreme:  and the bravest soldier often fell under a coward’s bolt.  The Germans fought with blind fury.  The Roman troops were more familiar with danger; they hurled down iron-clamped stakes and heavy stones with sure effect.  Wherever the sound of some one climbing or the clang of a scaling-ladder betrayed the presence of the enemy, they thrust them back with their shields and followed them with a shower of javelins.  Many appeared on top of the walls, and these they stabbed with their short swords.  And so the night wore on.  Day dawned upon new 30 methods of attack.  The Batavians had built a wooden tower of two stories and moved it up to the Head-quarters Gate,[315] which was the most accessible spot.  However, our soldiers, by using strong poles and hurling wooden beams, soon battered it to pieces, with great loss of life to those who were standing on it.  While they were still dismayed at this, we made a sudden and successful sally.  Meanwhile the legionaries, with remarkable skill and ingenuity, invented still further contrivances.  The one which caused most terror was a crane with a movable arm suspended over their assailants’ heads:  this arm was suddenly lowered, snatched up one or more of the enemy into the air before his fellows’ eyes, and, as the heavy end was swung round, tossed him into the middle of the camp.  Civilis now gave up hope of storming the camp and renewed a leisurely blockade, trying all the time by messages and offers of reward to undermine the loyalty of the legions.

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