This series has eight easy 5 minute installments. This first installment: Germanicus Takes Command.
The great German hero Arminius defeated and destroyed a Roman army in Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD. The Romans called upon their general Germanicus was called upon to take up command against the German threat. The Roman historian Tacitus takes up the story.
This selection is from Annals by Tacitus published in 117 AD. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a Roman Senator and historian of the early Empire.
Time: 14 AD
In the consulship of Drusus Caesar and Caius Norbanus a triumph was decreed to Germanicus; the war continuing. He was preparing with all diligence to prosecute it in the summer, but anticipated it by a sudden irruption early in the spring into the territories of the Cattians: for he had conceived a hope that the enemy was divided into opposite parties under Arminius and Segestes, both remarkable for perfidy or fidelity toward us: Arminius was the incendiary of Germany, but Segestes had given repeated warning of an intended revolt at other times and during the banquet immediately preceding the insurrection, and advised Varus “to secure him and Arminius and all the other chiefs; that the multitude, bereft of their leaders, would not dare to attempt anything; and Varus would have an opportunity to separate the guilty from the innocent.” But fate decreed it, and he was slain by Arminius. Segestes, though drawn into the war by the universal agreement of the nation in it, yet continued to disapprove of it; his detestation being augmented by motives of a domestic nature, for Arminius had carried away the daughter of Segestes, already betrothed to another: the son-in-law hated, the fathers-in-law were at enmity; and those relations which are bonds of affection between friends fomented the animosities of enemies.
Germanicus therefore handed over to Caecina four legions, five thousand auxiliaries, and some tumultuous bands of Germans who dwelt on this side the Rhine; he led, himself, as many legions, with double the number of allies, and erecting a fort in Mount Taunus, upon the site of one raised by his father, he pushed on in light marching order against the Cattians; having left Lucius Apronius to secure the roads and the rivers, for, as the roads were dry and the rivers within bounds — events in that climate of rare occurrence — he had found no check in his rapid march, but on his return apprehended the violent rains and floods. He fell upon the Cattians with such surprise that all the weak (through sex or age) were instantly taken or slaughtered. The young men swam over the Adrana and endeavored to obstruct the Romans, who commenced building a bridge; then, repulsed by engines and arrows and having in vain tried terms of peace–after some had gone over to Germanicus — the rest abandoned their cantons and villages and dispersed themselves into the woods. Mattium, the capital of the nation, he burned, ravaged the open country, and bent his march to the Rhine; nor durst the enemy harass his rear, which is their custom whenever they have fled, more from craft than fear. The Cheruscans had purposed to assist the Cattians, but were deterred by Cæcina, who moved about with his forces from place to place; and the Marsians, who dared to engage him, he checked by a victory.
Soon after arrived deputies from Segestes, praying relief against the violence of his countrymen, by whom he was besieged; Arminius having more influence with them than himself, because he advised war, for with barbarians the more resolute in daring a man is the more he is trusted and preferred in times of commotion. To the deputies Segestes had added Segimund, his son; but the young man hesitated from self-conviction; for the year when Germany revolted, having been created priest at the Ubian altar, he had rent the fillets and fled to the revolters: yet, induced to rely upon Roman clemency, he undertook the execution of his father’s orders, was graciously received, and conducted with a guard to the Gallic bank of the Rhine. Germanicus thought it worthwhile to march back, fought the besiegers, and rescued Segestes with a numerous train of his relations and followers, in which were ladies of illustrious rank, and among them the wife of Arminius–the same who was the daughter of Segestes — with a spirit more like that of her husband than her father; neither subdued to tears, nor uttering the language of supplication, but her hands folded within her bosom, and her eyes fixed upon her teeming womb. There were, likewise, carried off the spoils taken at the slaughter of Varus and his army, and given as booty to most of those who then surrendered.
At the same time appeared Segestes himself, of vast stature, and undaunted in the consciousness of his fidelity. In this manner he spoke: “This is not the first day that I have approved my faith and constancy to the Roman people: from the moment I was by the deified Augustus presented with the freedom of the city I have chosen my friends and enemies with reference to your interests, and that not from hatred of my country — for odious are traitors even to the party they prefer — but, because the interests of the Romans and Germans were the same, and because I was inclined to peace rather than war. For this reason, before Varus, the then general, I arraigned Arminius, the ravisher of my daughter and the violator of the league with you. Put off, from the supineness of the general, and seeing there was little protection in the laws, I importuned him to throw into irons myself and Arminius and his accomplices: witness that night — to me I would rather it had been the last! More to be lamented than defended are the events which followed. However, I cast Arminius into irons, and was myself cast into irons by his faction: and now, on the first opportunity of conferring with you, I prefer old things to new, peace to turbulence; and at the same time I might be a fitting mediator for the German nation, with no view of reward, but to clear myself of perfidy, if they would rather repent than be destroyed. For the youth and inexperience of my son I implore pardon. I admit my daughter has been brought into this state by constraint; it will be yours to consider which should preponderate with you — that she is the wife of Arminius or the daughter of Segestes.” The answer of Germanicus was gracious: he promised indemnity to his children, and kindred, and to himself, as a retreat, a place called “Vetera,” in the province; then returned with his army, and by the direction of Tiberius received the title of Imperato_.
We want to take this site to the next level but we need money to do that. Please contribute directly by signing up at https://www.patreon.com/history