They enter the doleful scene, hideous in appearance and association. The first camp of Varus appeared in view.
Continuing Germanicus in Germany,
our selection from Annals by Tacitus published in 117 AD. The selection is presented in eight easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in Germanicus in Germany.
Time: 15 AD
The account circulated of the surrender of Segestes, and his gracious reception, affected his countrymen with hope or anguish as they were severally prone or averse to the war. Acting upon a temper naturally violent, the captivity of his wife and the child in her womb subjected to bondage drove Arminius to distraction: he flew about among the Cheruscans, calling them to arms against Segestes, against Germanicus; nor did he refrain from invectives–“An excellent father! a great general; a valiant army, whose many hands had carried off one bit of a woman! That before him three legions fell, three lieutenants-general; for his method of carrying on war was not by treason nor against pregnant women, but openly, against armed hosts. That the Roman standards were still to be seen in the German groves, there suspended by him to his country’s gods. Segestes might live upon the vanquished bank; he might get the priesthood restored to his son; but the Germans would ever regard the fellow as the guilty cause of their having seen between the Elbe and Rhine rods and axes and the toga. That to other nations who know not the Roman domination, executions and tributes were unknown; and as they had thrown them off, and as Augustus (he who was enrolled with the gods) had retreated without accomplishing his object, and Tiberius, his chosen successor, let them not dread an inexperienced stripling and a mutinous army. If they preferred their country, their parents, and their ancient possessions, to masters and new settlements, they should follow Arminius, who led them to glory and liberty, rather than Segestes, who conducted them to infamous servitude.”
By these means not the Cheruscans only were roused, but the bordering nations; and Inguiomer, paternal uncle to Arminius, a man long in high credit with the Romans, was drawn into the confederacy. Hence Germanicus became more alarmed, and to prevent the war falling upon him with unbroken force, sent Cæcina with forty Roman cohorts to the river Amisia, through the territories of the Bructerians, to effect a division in the army of the enemy. Pedo, the prefect, led the cavalry along the confines of the Frisians; he himself, embarking four legions, sailed through the lakes; and at the aforesaid river the whole body met — foot, horse, and fleet. The Chaucians, upon offering their assistance, were taken into the service; but the Bructerians, setting fire to their effects and dwellings, were routed by Lucius Stertinius, despatched against them by Germanicus with a band lightly armed. And amid the carnage and plunder he found the eagle of the Nineteenth legion lost in the overthrow of Varus. The army marched next to the farthest borders of the Bructerians, and the whole country between the rivers Amisia and Luppia was laid waste. Not far hence lay the forest of Teutoburgium, and in it the bones of Varus and the legions, by report, still unburied.
Germanicus, therefore, conceived a desire to pay the last offices to the legions and their leader; while the whole of the army present were moved to deep commiseration for their kinsmen and friends, and generally for the calamities of war and the condition of humanity. Caecina having been sent before to explore the gloomy recesses of the forest, and to lay bridges and causeways over the watery portions of the morasses and insecure places in the plains, they enter the doleful scene, hideous in appearance and association. The first camp of Varus appeared in view. The extent of ground and the measurement of the principia left no doubt that the whole was the work of three legions. After that a half-decayed rampart with a shallow foss, where their remains, now sadly reduced, were understood to have sunk down. In the intervening portion of the plain were whitening bones, either scattered or accumulated, according as they had fled or had made a stand. Near them lay fragments of javelins and limbs of horses. There were also skulls fixed upon the trunks of trees. In the adjacent groves were the savage altars, where they had immolated the tribunes and centurions of the first rank. Those who survived the slaughter, having escaped from captivity and the sword, related the sad particulars to the rest: “Here the commanders of the legions were slain; there we lost the eagles; here Varus had his first wound; there he gave himself another, and perished by his own unhappy hand. In that place, too, stood the tribunal whence Arminius harangued. How many gibbets he erected for the execution of his captives; what trenches he dug; and how, in proud scorn, he made a mock at the standards and eagles.”
The Roman army which was on the spot buried the bones of the three legions six years after the slaughter: nor could anyone distinguish whether he buried the remains of a stranger or of a kinsman; but all considered the whole as friends, as relations, with heightened resentment against the foe, at once sad and revengeful. Germanicus laid the first sod used in raising a tomb, thus rendering a most acceptable service to the dead, and showing that he shared the sorrows of the living, a proceeding not liked by Tiberius; whether it were that upon every action of Germanicus he put a malignant construction, or that he believed that the impression produced by the sight of the unburied slain would dampen the ardor of the army for battle and inspire them with fear of the enemy. He also said that “A general invested with the office of augur and the most ancient religious functions ought not to have put his hand to the ceremonies of the dead.”
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