It is interesting to trace how far his fame survived during the Middle Ages, both among the Germans of the Continent and among ourselves.
Continuing Arminius Drives Romans Out of Germany,
our selection from The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World by Sir Edward S. Creasy published in 1851. The selection is presented in seven easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in Arminius Drives Romans Out of Germany.
Time: 9 AD
Place: Teutoburg Forest
I have said above that the great Cheruscan is more truly one of our national heroes than Caractacus is. It may be added that an Englishman is entitled to claim a closer degree of relationship with Arminius than can be claimed by any German of modern Germany. The proof of this depends on the proof of four facts: First, that the Cheruscans were Old Saxons, or Saxons of the interior of Germany; secondly, that the Anglo-Saxons, or Saxons of the coast of Germany, were more closely akin than other German tribes were to the Cheruscan Saxons; thirdly, that the Old Saxons were almost exterminated by Charlemagne; fourthly, that the Anglo-Saxons are our immediate ancestors. The last of these may be assumed as an axiom in English history. The proofs of the other three are partly philological and partly historical. It may be, however, here remarked that the present Saxons of Germany are of the High Germanic division of the German race, whereas both the Anglo-Saxon and Old Saxon were of the Low Germanic.
Being thus the nearest heirs of the glory of Arminius, we may fairly devote more attention to his career than, in such a work as the present, could be allowed to any individual leader; and it is interesting to trace how far his fame survived during the Middle Ages, both among the Germans of the Continent and among ourselves.
It seems probable that the jealousy with which Maroboduus, the king of the Suevi and Marcomanni, regarded Arminius, and which ultimately broke out into open hostilities between those German tribes and the Cherusci, prevented Arminius from leading the confederate Germans to attack Italy after his first victory. Perhaps he may have had the rare moderation of being content with the liberation of his country, without seeking to retaliate on her former oppressors. When Tiberius marched into Germany in the year 10, Arminius was too cautious to attack him on ground favorable to the legions, and Tiberius was too skilful to entangle his troops in the difficult parts of the country. His march and countermarch were as unresisted as they were unproductive. A few years later, when a dangerous revolt of the Roman legions near the frontier caused their generals to find them active employment by leading them into the interior of Germany, we find Arminius again active in his country’s defence. The old quarrel between him and his father-in-law, Segestes, had broken out afresh.
Segestes now called in the aid of the Roman general, Germanicus, to whom he surrendered himself; and by his contrivance, his daughter, Thusnelda, the wife of Arminius, also came into the hands of the Romans, she being far advanced in pregnancy. She showed, as Tacitus relates, more of the spirit of her husband than of her father, a spirit that could not be subdued into tears or supplications. She was sent to Ravenna, and there gave birth to a son, whose life we know, from an allusion in Tacitus, to have been eventful and unhappy; but the part of the great historian’s work which narrated his fate has perished, and we only know from another quarter that the son of Arminius was, at the age of four years, led captive in a triumphal pageant along the streets of Rome.
The high spirit of Arminius was goaded almost into frenzy by these bereavements. The fate of his wife, thus torn from him, and of his babe doomed to bondage even before its birth, inflamed the eloquent invectives with which he roused his countrymen against the home-traitors, and against their invaders, who thus made war upon women and children. Germanicus had marched his army to the place where Varus had perished, and had there paid funeral honors to the ghastly relics of his predecessor’s legions that he found heaped around him. Arminius lured him to advance a little farther into the country, and then assailed him, and fought a battle, which, by the Roman accounts, was a drawn one.
Footnote 1: In the Museum of Rhenish Antiquities at Bonn there is a Roman sepulchral monument the inscription on which records that it was erected to the memory of M. Coelius, who fell “Bella Variano.”
The effect of it was to make Germanicus resolve on retreating to the Rhine. He himself, with part of his troops, embarked in some vessels on the Ems, and returned by that river, and then by sea; but part of his forces were entrusted to a Roman general named Caecina, to lead them back by land to the Rhine. Arminius followed this division on its march, and fought several battles with it, in which he inflicted heavy loss on the Romans, captured the greater part of their baggage, and would have destroyed them completely had not his skilful system of operations been finally thwarted by the haste of Inguiomerus, a confederate German chief, who insisted on assaulting the Romans in their camp, instead of waiting till they were entangled in the difficulties of the country, and assailing their columns on the march.
In the following year the Romans were inactive, but in the year afterward Germanicus led a fresh invasion. He placed his army on shipboard and sailed to the mouth of the Ems, where he disembarked and marched to the Weser, there encamping, probably in the neighborhood of Minden. Arminius had collected his army on the other side of the river; and a scene occurred, which is powerfully told by Tacitus, and which is the subject of a beautiful poem by Praed. It has been already mentioned that the brother of Arminius, like himself, had been trained up while young to serve in the Roman armies; but, unlike Arminius, he not only refused to quit the Roman service for that of his country, but fought against his country with the legions of Germanicus. He had assumed the Roman name of Flavius, and had gained considerable distinction in the Roman service, in which he had lost an eye from a wound in battle. When the Roman outposts approached the river Weser, Arminius called out to them from the opposite bank and expressed a wish to see his brother. Flavius stepped forward, and Arminius ordered his own followers to retire, and requested that the archers should be removed from the Roman bank of the river. This was done; and the brothers, who apparently had not seen each other for some years, began a conversation from the opposite sides of the stream, in which Arminius questioned his brother respecting the loss of his eye, and what battle it had been lost in, and what reward he had received for his wound. Flavius told him how the eye was lost, and mentioned the increased pay that he had on account of its loss, and showed the collar and other military decorations that had been given him. Arminius mocked at these as badges of slavery; and then each began to try to win the other over — Flavius boasting the power of Rome and her generosity to the submissive; Arminius appealing to him in the name of their country’s gods, of the mother that had borne them, and by the holy names of fatherland and freedom, not to prefer being the betrayer to being the champion of his country. They soon proceeded to mutual taunts and menaces, and Flavius called aloud for his horse and his arms, that he might dash across the river and attack his brother; nor would he have been checked from doing so had not the Roman general Stertinius run up to him and forcibly detained him. Arminius stood on the other bank, threatening the renegade, and defying him to battle.
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