Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Tacitus.
it off, thinking he was there.  But Cerialis had been spending the night elsewhere; as most people believed, carrying on an intrigue with a Ubian woman named Claudia Sacrata.  The sentries sheltered their guilt under the general’s disgrace, pretending that they had orders to keep quiet and not disturb him:  so they had dispensed with the bugle-call and the challenge on rounds, and dropped off to sleep themselves.  In full daylight the enemy sailed off with their captive vessels and towed the flag-ship up the Lippe as an offering to Veleda.[546]

Civilis was now seized with a desire to make a naval display.  He 23 manned all the available biremes and all the ships with single banks of oars, and added to this fleet an immense number of small craft.  These carry thirty or forty men apiece and are rigged like Illyrian cruisers.[547] The small craft he had captured[548] were worked with bright, parti-coloured plaids, which served as sails and made a fine show.  He chose for review the miniature sea of water where the Rhine comes pouring down to the ocean through the mouth of the Maas.[549] His reason for the demonstration—­apart from Batavian vanity—­was to scare away the provision-convoys that were already on their way from Gaul.  Cerialis, who was less alarmed than astonished, at once formed up a fleet.  Though inferior in numbers, he had the advantage of larger ships, experienced rowers, and clever pilots.  The Romans had the stream with them, the Germans the wind.  So they sailed past each other, and after trying a few shots with light missiles they parted.  Civilis without more ado retired across the Rhine.[550] Cerialis vigorously laid waste the island of the Batavi, and employed the common device of leaving Civilis’s houses and fields untouched.[551] They were now well into autumn.  The heavy equinoctial rains had set the river in flood and thus turned the marshy, low-lying island into a sort of lake.  Neither fleet nor provision-convoys had arrived, and their camp on the flat plain began to be washed away by the force of the current.

Civilis afterwards claimed that at this point the Germans could 24 have crushed the Roman legions and wanted to do so, but that he had cunningly dissuaded them.  Nor does this seem far from true, since his surrender followed in a few days’ time.  Cerialis had been sending secret messages, promising the Batavians peace and Civilis pardon, urging Veleda and her relatives[552] to change the fortune of a war that had only brought disaster after disaster, by doing a timely service to Rome.[553] ‘The Treviri,’ he reminded them, ’had been slaughtered; the allegiance of the Ubii recovered; the Batavians robbed of their home.  By supporting Civilis they had gained nothing but bloodshed, banishment, and bereavement.  He was a fugitive exile, a burden to those who harboured him.  Besides, they had earned blame enough by crossing the Rhine so often:  if they took any further steps,—­from the one side they might expect insult and injury, from the other vengeance and the wrath of heaven.’

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