Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

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

Thus Cerialis mingled threats and promises.  The loyalty of the 25 tribes across the Rhine was shaken, and murmurs began to make themselves heard among the Batavi.  ’How much further is our ruin to go?’ they asked.  ’One tribe cannot free the whole world from the yoke.  What good have we done by slaughtering and burning Roman legions except to bring out others, larger and stronger?  If it was to help Vespasian that we have fought so vigorously, Vespasian is master of the world.  If we are challenging Rome—­what an infinitesimal fraction of the human race we Batavians are!  We must remember what burdens Raetia and Noricum and all Rome’s other allies bear.  From us they levy no tribute, only our manhood and our men.[554] That is next door to freedom.  And, after all, if we have to choose our masters, it is less disgrace to put up with Roman emperors than with German priestesses.’  Thus the common people:  the chieftains used more violent language.  ’It was Civilis’ lunacy that had driven them to war.  He wanted to remedy his private troubles[555] by ruining his country.  The Batavians had incurred the wrath of heaven by blockading Roman legions, murdering Roman officers, and plunging into a war which was useful for one of them and deadly for the rest.  Now they had reached the limit, unless they came to their senses and openly showed their repentance by punishing the culprit.’

Civilis was well aware of their changed feelings and determined to 26 forestall them.  He was tired of hardship, and he felt, besides, that desire to live which so often weakens the resolution of the bravest spirits.  He demanded an interview.  The bridge over the river Nabalia[556] was broken down in the middle, and the two generals advanced on to the broken ends.  Civilis began as follows:  ’If I were defending myself before one of Vitellius’ officers, I could expect neither pardon for my conduct nor credence for my words.  Between him and me there has been nothing but hatred.  He began the quarrel, I fostered it.  Towards Vespasian I have from the beginning shown respect.  When he was a private citizen, we were known as friends.  Antonius Primus was aware of this when he wrote urging me to take up arms to prevent the legions from Germany and the Gallic levies from crossing the Alps.[557] The instructions which Antonius gave in his letter Hordeonius Flaccus ratified by word of mouth.  I raised the standard in Germania, as did Mucianus in Syria, Aponius in Moesia, Flavianus in Pannonia....’

[The rest is lost.]


    [518] iv. 78.

    [519] Cp. iv. 28, 33, 35.

    [520] Adiutrix.

    [521] Before this Cerialis had five legions, I, IV, XVI, XXI,
          and XXII, but of these only XXI was in full force, so these
          new reinforcements may have doubled his army.  The auxiliaries
          had been called out by Hordeonius Flaccus (iv. 24).

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