Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Tacitus.
of the town.  This was delivered by the haughtiest of the delegates in some such terms as these:—­’We give thanks to the national gods of Germany and above all others, to the god of war, that you are again incorporate in the German nation and the German name, and we congratulate you that you will now at last become free members of a free community.  Until to-day the Romans had closed to us the roads and rivers, and almost the very air of heaven, to prevent all intercourse between us; or else they offered a still fouler insult to born warriors, that we should meet under supervision, unarmed and almost naked,[408] and should pay for the privilege.  Now, that our friendly alliance may be ratified for all eternity, we demand of you that you pull down those bulwarks of slavery, the walls of your town, for even wild beasts lose their spirit if you keep them caged:  that you put to the sword every Roman on your soil, since tyrants are incompatible with freedom; that all the property of those killed form a common stock and no one be allowed to conceal anything or to secure any private advantage.  It must also be open both for us and for you to live on either river-bank, as our forefathers could in earlier days.  As daylight is the natural heritage of all mankind, so the land of the world is free to all brave men.  Resume again the customs and manners of your own country and throw off those luxurious habits which enslave Rome’s subjects far more effectively than Roman arms.  Then, grown simple and uncorrupt, you will forget your past slavery and either know none but equals or hold empire over others.’

The townspeople took time to consider these proposals, and, 65 feeling that their apprehensions for the future forbade them to assent, while their present circumstances forbade them to return a plain negative, they answered as follows:  ’We have seized our first opportunity of freedom with more haste than prudence, because we wanted to join hands with you and all our other German kinsmen.  As for our town-walls, seeing that the Roman armies are massing at this moment, it would be safer for us to heighten them than to pull them down.  All the foreigners from Italy or the provinces who lived on our soil have either perished in the war or fled to their own homes.  As for the original settlers[409], who are united to us by ties of marriage, they and their offspring regard this as their home, and we do not think you are so unreasonable as to ask us to kill our parents and brothers and children.  All taxes and commercial restrictions we remit.  We grant you free entry without supervision, but you must come in daylight and unarmed, while these ties which are still strange and new are growing into a long-established custom.  As arbitrators we will appoint Civilis and Veleda, and we will ratify our compact in their presence.’

Thus the Tencteri were pacified.  A deputation was sent with presents to Civilis and Veleda, and obtained all that the people of Cologne desired.  They were not, however, allowed to approach and speak to Veleda or even to see her, but were kept at a distance to inspire in them the greater awe.  She herself lived at the top of a high tower, and one of her relatives was appointed to carry all the questions and answers like a mediator between God and man.

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