Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Tacitus.

What chiefly distressed our troops was the lack of supplies.  The 35 baggage-train of the legions was sent to Novaesium with a crowd of non-combatants to fetch provisions thence by land, the enemy being now masters of the river.  The first convoy got through safely, while Civilis was recovering from his fall.  But when he heard that a second foraging-party had been sent to Novaesium under guard of several cohorts, and that they were proceeding on their way with their arms piled in the wagons as if it was a time of perfect peace, few keeping to the standards and all wandering at will, he sent some men forward to hold the bridges and any places where the road was narrow, and then formed up and attacked.  The battle was fought on a long straggling line, and the issue was still doubtful when nightfall broke it off.  The cohorts made their way through to Gelduba, where the camp remained as it was,[324] garrisoned by the soldiers who had been left behind there.  It was obvious what dangers the convoy would have to face on the return journey; they would be heavily laden and had already lost their nerve.  Vocula[325] accordingly added to his force a thousand picked men from the Fifth and Fifteenth legions who had been at Vetera during the siege, all tough soldiers with a grievance against their generals.  Against his orders, more than the thousand started with him, openly complaining on the march that they would not put up with famine and the treachery of their generals any longer.  On the other hand, those who stayed behind grumbled that they were left to their fate now that part of the garrison had been removed.  Thus there was a double mutiny, one party calling Vocula back, the others refusing to return to camp.

Meanwhile Civilis laid siege to Vetera.  Vocula retired to Gelduba, 36 and thence to Novaesium, shortly afterwards winning a cavalry skirmish just outside Novaesium.  The Roman soldiers, however, alike in success and in failure, were as eager as ever to make an end of their generals.  Now that their numbers were swelled by the arrival of the detachments from the Fifth and the Fifteenth[326] they demanded their donative, having learnt that money had arrived from Vitellius.  Without further delay Flaccus gave it to them in Vespasian’s name, and this did more than anything else to promote mutiny.  They indulged in wild dissipation and met every night in drinking-parties, at which they revived their old grudge against Hordeonius Flaccus.  None of the officers ventured to interfere with them—­the darkness somehow obscured their sense of duty—­and at last they dragged Flaccus out of bed and murdered him.  They were preparing to do the same with Vocula, but he narrowly escaped in the darkness, disguised as a slave.  When the excitement subsided, their fears returned, and they sent 37 letters round by centurions to all the Gallic communities, asking for reinforcements and money for the soldiers’ pay.

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