Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

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

Now that he had gained the accession of Cologne, Civilis 66 determined to win over the neighbouring communities or to declare war in case of opposition.  He reduced the Sunuci[410] and formed their fighting strength into cohorts, but then found his advance barred by Claudius Labeo[411] at the head of a hastily-recruited band of Baetasii, Tungri, and Nervii.[411] He had secured the bridge over the Maas and relied on the strength of his position.  A skirmish in the narrow defile proved indecisive, until the Germans swam across and took Labeo in the rear.  At this point Civilis by a bold move—­or possibly by arrangement—­rode into the lines of the Tungri and called out in a loud voice, ’Our object in taking up arms is not to secure empire for the Batavi and Treviri over other tribes.  We are far from any such arrogance.  Take us as allies.  I am come to join you; whether as general or as private it is for you to choose.’  This had a great effect on the common soldiers, who began to sheathe their swords.  Then two of their chieftains, Campanus and Juvenalis, surrendered the entire tribe.  Labeo escaped before he was surrounded.  Civilis also received the allegiance of the Baetasii and Nervii, and added their forces to his own.  His power was now immense, for all the Gallic communities were either terrified or ready to offer willing support.

In the meantime, Julius Sabinus,[412] who had destroyed every 67 memorial of the Roman alliance,[413] assumed the title of Caesar and proceeded to hurry a large unwieldy horde of his tribesmen against the Sequani,[414] a neighbouring community, faithful to Rome.  The Sequani accepted battle:  the good cause prospered:  the Lingones were routed.  Sabinus fled the field with the same rash haste with which he had plunged into battle.  Wishing to spread a rumour of his death, he took refuge in a house and set fire to it, and was thus supposed to have perished by his own act.  We shall, however, relate in due course the devices by which he lay in hiding and prolonged his life for nine more years, and allude also to the loyalty of his friends and the memorable example set by his wife Epponina.[415]


    [384] Tacitus here resumes the thread of his narrative of the
          rebellion on the Rhine, interrupted at the end of chap. 37,
          and goes back from July to January, A.D. 70.

    [385] Cp. iii. 46.

    [386] The danger of Druidism was always before the eyes of the
          emperors.  Augustus had forbidden Roman citizens to adopt it. 
          Claudius had tried to stamp it out in Gaul and in Britain, yet
          they appear again here to preach a fanatic nationalism. 
          However, this seems to be their last appearance as leaders of

    [387] Probably they were in Rome, and were sent back to their
          homes to intrigue against Vitellius’ rising power.

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