12. It was at this moment that rumours of disaster in Germany began to multiply. Rome received them with unconcern. The annihilation of armies, the capture of permanent legionary camps and the defection of the Gallic provinces were indeed discussed — but not as if they were calamities. In order to explain the reasons for this war and the widespread rebellion of foreign and allied peoples which marked the conflagration, I shall refer to its antecedents.
The Batavians, so long as they lived beyond the Rhine, formed a branch of the Chatti. Driven out by domestic dissension, they occupied the uninhabited riverine fringes of Gaul together with the 'Island' in the lower reaches, washed by the North Sea on the west, and on the other three sides by the Rhine. They were not exploited financially despite the Roman supremacy and their alliance with a stronger power, but contributed only men and arms to the empire. After a long and hard training in the German campaigns, (1) the Batavian cohorts were moved across the Channel to Britain (2) where they added to their laurels, still commanded according to long-standing practice by their own nobles. In the home country, they also had a picked cavalry force specially trained for amphibious operations. These men were capable of swimming the Rhine while keeping hold of their arms and mounts, and maintaining perfect formation.
13. By far the most prominent of the Batavians were Julius Civilis and Claudius Paulus, who were of royal descent. Fontaus Capito executed Paulus on a trumped-up charge of rebellion, (3) while Civilis was put in irons and sent to Nero. Although acquitted by Galba, he found himself once more in danger under Vitellius, whose army clamoured for his head. This was why he hated Rome and hoped for great things from our difficulties. But Civilis was unusually intelligent for a native, and passed himself off as a second Sertorius or Hannibal, whose facial disfigurement he shared. (4) Open rebellion involved the risk of being attacked as an enemy of Rome, so he posed as a friend and supporter of Vespasian. It must be admitted that Antonius Primus sent him a letter with instructions to divert the reinforcements called up by Vitellius and to immobilize the legions by the fiction of a German revolt. He had received the same hint in a personal interview with Hordeonius Flaccus, who was sympathetic to Vespasian and seriously perturbed by a situation in which his country faced disaster if fighting were resumed and thousands of armed men invaded Italy.
14. So Civilis determined to rebel. But for the time being he concealed his ultimate purpose, intending to shape his future course in the light of events. The way in which he set about his revolutionary enterprise was the following. At the time, Batavians of military age were being conscripted on the instructions of Vitellius. The levy was by its nature a heavy burden, but it was rendered still more oppressive by the greed and profligacy of the recruiting sergeants, who called up the old and unfit in order to exact a bribe for their release, while young, good-looking lads — for children are normally quite tall among the Batavians— were dragged off to gratify their lust. This caused bitter resentment, and the ringleaders of revolt got together and succeeded in inducing their countrymen to refuse service. Civilis invited the nobles and the most enterprising commoners to a sacred grove, ostensibly for a banquet. When he saw that darkness and merriment had inflamed their hearts, he addressed them. Starting with a reference to the glory and renown of their nation, he went on to catalogue the wrongs, the depredations and all the other woes of slavery. The alliance, he said, was no longer observed on the old terms: they were treated as chattels. How long would they have to wait for the arrival of the governor, who, despite his burdensome and overbearing suite, did exercise real control? The Batavians were at the mercy of prefects and centurions who, when glutted with spoil and blood, were replaced by others looking for fresh pockets to pick and new labels for plunder. They were faced with a levy which parted children from parents and brothers from brothers, apparently for ever. The Roman state had never been in such low water. The permanent legionary camps contained nothing but loot and old men past service. They had only to lift up their eyes. They should have no fear of the legions: these were merely names without substance. The Batavians, on the other hand, could rely on a strong body of infantry and cavalry, kinship with the Germans and identity of purpose with the Gallic provinces. Even the Romans would welcome such a war, in which a doubtful issue would at any rate secure the rebels credit with Vespasian, and an outright victory call for no apology.
15. Civilis was listened to with whole-hearted approval. He exacted from all his hearers an oath of loyalty marked by barbarous ritual and traditional curses upon the perjurer. Negotiations for a joint plan of action were made with the Cannenefates. This is a tribe occupying part of the Island (5) and closely resembling the Batavians in origin, language and fighting spirit, though less numerous. Then he sent secret agents to win over the auxiliaries from Britain, that is, the Batavian cohorts, which, as I have already mentioned, (6) had been moved to Germany, and were now stationed at Mogontiacum.
Among the Cannenefates was a foolish desperado called Brinno. He came of a very distinguished family. His father had taken part in many marauding exploits, and had snapped his fingers at Gaius' bogus expeditions without being brought to book. (7) The mere fact that his son was the heir of a rebel family secured him votes. He was placed upon a shield in the tribal fashion and carried on the swaying shoulders of his bearers to symbolize his election as leader. (8) Immediately calling upon the Frisii, a tribe beyond the Rhine, he swooped down on two Roman cohorts in their nearby quarters (9) and simultaneously overran them from the North Sea. The garrison had not expected the attack, nor indeed would it have been strong enough to hold out if it had, so the posts were captured and sacked. Then the enemy fell upon the Roman supply-contractors and merchants who were scattered over the countryside with no thought of war. The marauders were also on the point of destroying the frontier forts, (10) but these were set on fire by the cohort-prefects because they could not be defended. The headquarters of the various units and such troops as they could muster rallied to the upper ( i.e. eastern) part of the Island under a senior centurion called Aquilius. But this was an army on paper only, lacking real strength. It could hardly be otherwise, for Vitellius had withdrawn the bulk of the cohorts' effectives and saddled with arms a bunch of loafers from the nearest Nervian and German districts.
16. Civilis decided on a ruse. He took it upon himself to criticize the prefects for abandoning their forts, and offered to deal with the outbreak of the Cannenefates in person with the help of the cohort under his command. As for the Roman commanders, they could get back to their respective stations. But the Germans are a nation that loves fighting, and they did not keep the secret for long. Hints of what was afoot gradually leaked out and the truth was revealed: Civilis' advice concealed a trick, scattered cohorts were more liable to be wiped out, and the ringleader was not Brinno, but Civilis. When the plot came to nothing, the latter resorted to force and enrolled the Cannenefates, Frisii and Batavians in separate striking forces. On the Roman side, a front was formed at no great distance from the Rhine, (11) and the naval vessels which had put in at this point after the burning of the forts were arrayed to face the enemy. Fighting had not lasted long before a Tungrian cohort went over to Civilis, and the Roman troops, disarrayed by this unforeseen treachery, went down before the combined onslaught of allies and foes. The naval force was equally disloyal. Some of the rowers were Batavians, and they feigned incompetence in order to hinder the sailors and marines in the performance of their duties. Then they began to resist, and tried to steer the ships towards the enemy-held bank, finally murdering the helmsmen and centurions who refused to throw in their lot with them. In the end the whole fleet of twenty-four ships either deserted or was captured.
17. This success earned the rebels immediate prestige, and provided a useful basis for future action. They had obtained the arms and ships they needed, and were acclaimed as liberators as the news spread like wild-fire throughout the German and Gallic provinces. The former (12) immediately sent an offer of help. As for an alliance with the provinces of Gaul, Civilis used cunning and bribery to achieve this, returning the captured cohort-prefects to their own communities and giving the men the choice between discharge and soldiering on. Those who stayed were offered service on honourable terms, those who went received spoil taken from the Romans. He also talked to them privately and reminded them of the ill-treatment they had endured for so many years in a condition of subjection which it was wrong for them to describe as 'peaceful development'. The Batavians, he said, despite exemption from tribute, had risen against the tyranny they all endured. The Romans had been routed and vanquished in the very first encounter. What if the Gallic provinces shook off the yoke? What reserves were left in Italy? It was at the cost of provincial blood that the provinces were crushed. They should not worry about the battle fought by Vindex. (13) In this, the Aedui and the Arverni had been trampled underfoot by Batavian cavalry. Among the auxiliaries of Verginius had figured Belgians, and sober reflection showed that Gaul had succumbed to Gallic forces. Now they were all on the same side, with the added advantage of such military discipline as had prevailed in the Roman army in the past. They were supported by veteran cohorts, fresh from the defeat of Otho's legions. Slavery was good enough for Syria and Asia and the Orient with its tradition of kingship, but in Gaul there were many men still living who had been born before the Roman tribute was imposed. (14) It was beyond question that the annihilation of Quintilius Varus (15) had saved Germany from enslavement, and this had been a challenge presented to an emperor who was not Vitellius, but Caesar Augustus. Nature had given even the dumb brutes freedom, and courage was the peculiar excellence of man. Heaven helped the braver side. So, with vigour untrammelled and unimpaired, let-them fasten upon a distracted and exhausted enemy. While rival groups supported Vespasian and Vitellius, there was scope to attack both.
18. Civilis in this way kept an eye on Gaul and Germany. If his plan worked, he hoped at any moment to become king of the strongest and richest nations in the world. As for Hordeonius Flaccus, he hushed up the initial moves of Civilis and in so doing gave them sustenance. But when panic-stricken messengers arrived with news of the storming of forts, the wiping-out of cohorts and the expulsion of everything Roman from the Island of the Batavians, Flaccus instructed the legate Munius Lupercus to move out against the enemy. Lupercus, who commanded a camp (16) containing two legions, assembled a force consisting of legionaries from the garrison, Ubii from adjacent units, and Treviran horse stationed at no great distance. These units he rapidly put across the river, (17) together with a Batavian cavalry regiment which, though long disaffected, pretended to be loyal in order to betray the Romans in the face of the enemy and derive greater profit from its flight. Near Civilis were massed the captured Roman standards: his men were to have their eyes fixed upon the newly-won trophies while their enemies were demoralised by the recollection of defeat. He also caused his mother and sisters, accompanied by the wives and young children of all his men, to take up their station in the rear as a spur to victory or a reproach to the routed. Then the battle chant of the warriors and the shrill wailing of the women rang out over the host, evoking in response only a feeble cheer from the legions and cohorts. The Roman left front was soon exposed by the defection of the Batavian cavalry regiment, which immediately turned about to face us. But in this frightening situation the legionaries kept their arms and ranks intact. The Ubian and Treviran auxiliaries disgraced themselves by stampeding over the countryside in wild flight. Against them the Germans directed the brunt of their attack, which gave the legions a breathing-space in which to get back to the camp called Vetera. The prefect of the Batavian cavalry regiment, Claudius Labeo, was involved in some petty local rivalry with Civilis. As his murder might be unpopular with the Batavians and his continued presence encourage dissension, Civilis had him removed to a place of exile among the Frisii.
19. At about the same date, the cohorts of Batavians and Cannenefates were overtaken by Civilis' messenger as they were starting off on the way to Rome at the orders of Vitellius. (18) They promptly assumed an intractable and high-handed attitude towards the Romans. As a bribe for making the march, they proceeded to ask for a bounty, double pay and an increase in the cavalry element of their units. (19) No doubt these were privileges promised by Vitellius, but the men were less concerned to obtain them than to secure an excuse for mutiny. Moreover, by his many concessions Flaccus had merely encouraged them to clamour more noisily for what they knew he would refuse. Paying no attention to him, they made for Lower Germany to join Civilis. Hordeonius (20) called his tribunes and centurions together and consulted them on the desirability of bringing the insubordinate troops to heel by force. But he was not by nature a man of action, and his staff were worried by the ambiguous attitude of the auxiliaries and the dilution of the legions by hasty conscription. So he decided against risking his troops outside the camp. Afterwards he changed his mind, and as his advisers themselves went back on the views they had expressed, he gave the impression that he intended pursuit, and wrote to Herennius Gallus, stationed at Bonn in command of the First Legion, telling him to bar the passage of the Batavians and promising to follow closely on their heels with his army. The rebels could in fact have been crushed if Hordeonius and Gallus had moved up from opposite directions and caught them between two fires. But Flaccus abandoned his plan, and in a fresh dispatch to Gallus warned him not to molest the departing cohorts. This bred a suspicion that the command wanted an extension of the fighting, and that everything that had already happened or was feared in the future sprang not from the slackness of the army or the enemy's violence but from a conspiracy by the generals.
20. On approaching the camp at Bonn, the Batavian cohorts sent a representative ahead to lay their views before Herennius Gallus. There was no question, they said, of their waging war against the Romans, for whom they had fought many a time. They were wearied by long and fruitless service, and longed for their homeland and retirement. If no resistance were offered, they would march on without doing damage, but if faced with armed force, they intended to cut their way through. This attitude made the legate hesitate, but his troops induced him to risk a fight. He had 3,000 legionaries and some untrained Belgian cohorts, together with a number of civilians and camp-followers who had no fight in them, though they were boastful enough before the hour of danger. This force burst from all the various gates of the camp, with the intention of surrounding the numerically inferior Batavians. The latter were old hands at fighting. They formed up into squares, compact masses of men presenting an impregnable defence everywhere, front, rear and sides. In this formation they broke the thin Roman line. As the Belgians gave way, the legion was driven from the field and the fugitives made helter-skelter for the rampart and gates of the camp. This was where the heaviest losses occurred. The ditches were choked with bodies, and the Romans suffered death and wounds not only at the hands of the enemy but as a result of falling and, in many instances, by their own weapons. The victors gave Cologne a wide berth and ventured on no further hostile act during the rest of the march. Their excuse for the fight at Bonn was that they had asked for peace and the rejection of their request had forced them to act in self-defence.
21. The arrival of the veteran cohorts meant that Civilis now commanded a proper army. But he still hesitated on his course of action, and reflected that Rome was strong. So he made all the men he had swear allegiance to Vespasian, and sent an appeal to the two legions which had been beaten in the previous engagement and had retired to the camp at Vetera, asking them to accept the same oath. Back came the reply. They were not in the habit of taking advice from a traitor nor from the enemy. They already had an emperor, Vitellius, and in his defence they would maintain their loyalty and arms to their dying breath. So it was not for a Batavian turncoat to sit in judgement on matters Roman. He had only to await his deserts— the punishment of a felon. When this reply reached Civilis, he flew into a rage, and hurried the whole Batavian nation into arms. They were joined by the Bructeri and Tencteri, and as the tidings spread Germany awoke to the call of spoil and glory.
22. In the face of this threatening concentration, the legionary legates Munius Lupercus and Numisius Rufus (21) proceeded to re-inforce the rampart and stockades. A settlement just outside the camp had grown during the long peace to the size of a small town. (22) This was now demolished to deny its use to the enemy. But they had forgotten to arrange for the conveyance of the food-supplies into the camp, and allowed them to be looted. Thus stocks which would have covered their needs for a long time were used up in a few days of licence. Civilis, himself commanding the central expeditionary force with the pick of his troops, the Batavians, filled both banks of the Rhine with disorderly bands of Germans in order to create a more ferocious appearance, while the cavalry careered over the plains nearby. At the same time the ships were moving upstream. The besieged were dumbfounded at the sight. In one direction their eyes fell upon the standards of veteran cohorts, in another upon the various tribal emblems normally carried into battle— representations of wild beasts brought from forest and sacred grove. This illustrated the twofold aspect of the war, civil and foreign.
The attacking force was encouraged by the length of the rampart, which, though designed for two legions, was in fact defended by barely 5,000 armed men. (23) But there were large numbers of camp-followers who had flocked to Vetera owing to the troubles and were available to help the war effort.
23. One end of the camp occupied a gentle slope, while the other was approached on the level. (24) The fact was that Augustus had imagined that this fortress was adequate to keep the provinces of Germany under supervision and control. He had never envisaged a situation so desperate that they would actually dare to march on Vetera and attack our legions. Consequently neither the site nor its defences had had labour spent upon them. (25) A numerous garrison and a well-stored arsenal seemed to meet the case.
The Batavians and the Germans from across the Rhine formed up in separate national contingents to show what each could do on its own, and challenged us with long-distance volleys. But most of their missiles sank harmlessly into the towers and merlons of the wall, and the enemy for their part were the target of a plunging fire of stones which inflicted some wounds. So with a yell and a rush they then made for the rampart, most of them putting ladders against it, others clambering over a 'tortoise' formed by their comrades. A few had already climbed some way when, under a rain of blows from swords and other arms, they were sent hurtling down to be buried under stakes and javelins. Natives are always full of fight at the start, and if successful they get out of control. But in this case their greed for booty made them put up with reverses as well. They even risked employing engines-of-war, unfamiliar as they were with such things. Not that they had any technical knowledge themselves. Deserters and prisoners showed them how to build a long timber shed like the superstructure of a bridge, put it on wheels and then move it forward, in such a way that some of the assailants posted themselves on top of it and so did battle from a kind of mound, while others concealed inside set about undermining the walls. But an artillery bombardment of stones soon flattened this crazy contraption. As they were preparing hurdles and mantlets, the guns shot burning spears at them, and the besiegers were themselves assailed with flames. In the end, despairing of storming Vetera, they revised their tactics and played a waiting game, being perfectly aware that the camp held only a few days' provisions and a mass of non-combatants. With luck, too, famine might encourage treason, sap the loyalty of the slaves and provoke the unpredictable accidents of war.
24. Flaccus, meanwhile, hearing that Vetera was beleaguered, had sent officers to scour the Gallic provinces for reinforcements. He then entrusted the commander of the Twenty-Second Legion, Dillius Vocula, with a selected body of legionaries. The plan was that Vocula should march along the bank of the Rhine at top speed, while the governor travelled on board a naval squadron, being unfit physically and unpopular with his men. Indeed, the latter did not mince matters. They claimed that the Batavian cohorts had been allowed to leave Mogontiacum, while Civilis' movements had been hushed up and an alliance was now being made with Germans. Not even Antonius Primus or Mucianus had done more to encourage the rise of Vespasian. Undisguised hostility and armed attack could be repelled in the open, but treachery and deceit worked in darkness and were for that reason hard to parry. There, opposite them, stood Civilis, marshalling his men for the fray, while Hordeonius from the pillows of a sick-room issued orders perfectly calculated to play into the enemy's hands. Thousands of sturdy fighters, ready for action, were controlled by a single elderly invalid. They had better kill the traitor, and free their luck and valour from this incubus. By exchanging there remarks they fanned each other's indignation, and it found further fuel in a letter from Vespasian which Flaccus, because he could not hide it, read out to the assembled troops, and sent its bearers to Vitellius under guard.
25. This succeeded in quietening them for the march to Bonn, which was the headquarters of the First Legion. The men there were even more resentful, and blamed Hordeonius for their defeat. It was his orders, so they claimed, that had been responsible for their being deployed against the Batavians under the impression that the legions from Mogontiacum were in pursuit; and his, too, was the treachery that had caused their discomfiture when no units turned up to help them. This episode was not known to the other armies, nor was it being communicated to their emperor, though it would have been quite possible to nip the treason in the bud by rushing up reinforcements from the many provinces within reach.
Hordeonius read out to the army copies of all the letters he had sent asking Britain and the provinces of Gaul and Spain for help, and introduced the disastrous practice of handing dispatches over to the legionary standard-bearers, by whom they were read to the troops before they were to the officers. Then he had one of the mutineers arrested, less because the fault lay with a single man than in order to assert his rights. The army was now moved from Bonn to Cologne. Gallic recruits were by this time streaming in, for at first the Gauls assisted the Roman cause with vigour, though later, as German strength increased, a number of the states rebelled against us, nourishing hopes of liberty and the ambition to acquire an empire for themselves once they were free. Among the legions there was growing resentment, and they had not been intimidated by the confinement of one solitary soldier. Indeed, this fellow actually tried to incriminate the governor, alleging that he had himself carried messages between Civilis and Flaccus, and was being got rid of on a trumped-up charge because he knew too much. Vocula showed remarkable firmness. He got up on a platform and ordered the man to be seized and taken away, still yelling, to execution. This gave the trouble-makers a shock, and the better sort obeyed orders. Then, as they called unanimously for Vocula to lead them, Flaccus handed over the command to him.
26. But unity was lacking, and there were many irritants. Pay and rations were short. The Gallic provinces refused to provide either men or tribute owing to a drought unusual in these latitudes, the Rhine was scarcely navigable and this restricted the movement of supplies. Moreover, pickets had been posted along the whole length of the river to prevent the Germans from fording it, and thus one and the same cause reduced the supply of food and increased the number of consumers. Ignorant minds found something sinister in the very shortage of water, feeling that even the rivers on which the empire had so long relied for defence were now deserting us. In time of peace, this might have been attributed to chance or natural causes. Now it was called 'fate' and 'the anger of heaven'.
On entering Novaesium, they were joined by the Sixteenth Legion. The commanding officer, Herennius Gallus, (26) was added to Vocula's staff, and took some of the burden of responsibility from his shoulders. Not venturing to continue their advance against the enemy, they encamped at a place called Gelduba. Here a training programme which included manoeuvres, fortification and the construction of a rampart helped them to steady the troops. Wishing to raise morale by a plundering foray, Vocula led the army against the lands of the nearby Cugerni, who had accepted Civilis' offer of alliance.
27. Part of the force remained behind with Herennius Gallus. One day, it happened that a heavily-laden corn-ship had run aground a little way from the camp, and the Germans proceeded to tow it to their side of the river. Gallus was not prepared to stand this, and sent a cohort to the rescue. The Germans, too, brought up reserves, and as more and more newcomers joined in on either side, a regular fight developed. The Germans inflicted heavy losses on us, and got the ship away. The beaten troops adopted the now fashionable expedient of blaming their commander for treachery rather than themselves for cowardice. They dragged him out of his tent, tore his uniform and assaulted him violently, telling him to say what he had got for betraying the army, and who his accomplices were. They then rounded on Hordeonius, describing him as the arch-plotter and Gallus as his tool. In the end, repeated threats of murder frightened Gallus into echoing their accusations against Hordeonius. He was then put in irons, and only freed on the arrival of Vocula, who on the following day had the ringleaders of the mutiny executed— a striking proof of the extremes of insubordination and submissiveness in this particular army. It is clear that the rank-and-file were loyal to Vitellius, while the senior officers favoured Vespasian. This is why crime and punishment alternated, and out-breaks of violence consorted so strangely with willingness to obey that it was possible to punish the men but impossible to restrain them.
28. Civilis for his part was now finding his strength immeasurably increased by reinforcements from Germany at large. A firm alliance was sealed by an exchange of hostages of the highest rank. The Batavian leader ordered the Ubii and Treviri to be plundered by their respective neighbours, and another force was sent beyond the Maas to strike a blow at the Menapiu and Morini in the north of Gaul. In both theatres booty was gathered, and they showed special vindictiveness in plundering the Ubii because this was a tribe of German origin which had renounced its nationality and preferred to be known by the Roman name of 'Agrippinenses'.(27) Some cohorts of theirs were cut to pieces in the village of Marcodurum, caught napping because they were so far from the Rhine. The Ubii themselves joined the fray. Their aim was to plunder Germany, and this they did scot-free at first. But they were later rounded up, and indeed throughout this war they were less lucky than loyal.
The crushing of the Ubii made Civilis a more dangerous enemy, whose ambitions soared with success. He now pressed the siege of the legionary camp, (28) keeping tighter watch so that no messenger with news of the relieving army should slip through his lines unobserved. He allotted the artillery and heavy engineering duties to the Batavians. The Germans from across the Rhine were clamouring for action, and these he ordered to advance in an attempt to cut the rampart. When repulsed, they were sent forward again, man-power being abundant and casualties of little consequence.
29. Nor did their exertion end with dusk. They not only heaped up a pile of logs by their positions, but held a carousal in the light of the bonfire. As the wine went to their heads, they would surge forward into battle with a reckless folly which failed to achieve anything, for their own shots went astray in the darkness and the Romans had the native ranks in full view and aimed at anyone who was conspicuous by his enterprise or glittering decorations. Civilis, realizing what was happening, ordered the fire to be put out, and staged a confused scene of darkness and battle. This was the signal for a pandemonium of discordant howling and blind rushes, in which it was impossible to see far enough to strike blows properly or to parry them. Whenever there happened to be shouting, they wheeled clumsily round in its direction and laid about them. Courage was useless, chance ruled the general chaos, and often heroes tell by the hand of cowards. The actions of the Germans were marked by incoherent fury, but the Roman soldier, who well understood his perilous position, hurled his iron-shod stakes and heavy stones to good effect. When the sound of climbing or the placing of ladders against the wall delivered the enemy into his hand, he would strike them back with his shield-boss and follow this up with the javelin. Many attackers surmounted the wall, but were stabbed by the Roman dirks. Thus the long night was endured, and dawn disclosed a new form of assault.
30. The Batavians had built a high tower with two superimposed platforms. This they brought up to the main gate, where the ground was flattest. (29) But the defenders countered this with sturdy poles and rammed it with beams until it fell to pieces, causing heavy losses to the men standing on it. A sudden sortie against the disorganized enemy achieved results, and the legionaries also used their greater experience and technical skill to outbid the enemy in the construction of engines of war. The most frightening of these was a grab capable of being elevated and depressed. This would suddenly be let down, and one or more of the enemy soldiers whisked up into the air before the eyes of their fellows, to be unloaded inside the camp by the rotation of the counter-weight. Despairing of assault, Civilis resumed his steady investment, attempting in the meantime to undermine the loyalty of the legions by messages and promises.
31. Such were events in Germany up to the Battle of Cremona, (30) the outcome of which was made known by a letter from Antonius Primus enclosing a proclamation issued by Caecina. Indeed, one of the cohort commanders on the beaten side, Alpinius Montanus, testified personally to the success of the Flavian cause. Reaction to this was varied. The auxiliaries from Gaul, who neither liked nor disliked the contending sides and whose service implied no personal attachment, lost no time in renouncing Vitellius at the prompting of their commanders. The seasoned troops held back. But when Hordeonius Flaccus administered the oath of allegiance, they too accepted it under pressure from the tribunes, though with little conviction in their looks or hearts, and while firmly reciting the other formulae of the solemn declaration, hesitated at the name 'Vespasian' or mumbled it, and indeed for the most part passed it over in silence.
32. A missive from Antonius to Civilis was then read to the assembled troops. Its tone inflamed their suspicions because the recipient was addressed as if he were an ally of the Flavians, while the army of Germany was alluded to as an enemy. When the news in due course reached the camp at Gelduba, there was the same reaction in word and deed, and Montanus was sent on to Civilis with a request that he should cease hostilities and not disguise a national war under false colours. If he had set out to help Vespasian, he was told, his mission had already been fulfilled. Civilis' reply was diplomatic at first, but when he realized that Montanus was a man of violent passions who was ready to stir up trouble, he made an appeal to him. He prefaced this with complaints and a reference to the dangers he had endured for five and twenty years in Roman camps.
'A fine reward I got for my efforts,' said he, ' — the murder of my brother, my own imprisonment, and the vicious clamour of this army for my execution. For this I seek satisfaction according to the law of nations. As for you Treviri and your fellow craven spirits, what recompense do you expect for the blood you have shed so often, other than unrewarded service, endless taxation, flogging, the block and the devilish ingenuities of tyranny? Look at me. I am the commander of a single cohort, and rely on the Cannenefates and Batavians, who form only a tiny fragment of the Gallic provinces. Yet together we have utterly destroyed those vast but useless bases or are now cracking them in the grip of war and hunger. One final argument: we shall either achieve freedom if we venture or lose nothing by defeat.'
With these inflammatory words, but with instructions to take back a milder reply, he dismissed Montanus, who returned with the story that his mission had failed, though he concealed the rest. The explosion was not long in coming.
33. Civilis held back a part of his forces, and sent the veteran cohorts and the keenest of his German troops against Vocula and his army, under the command of Julius Maximus and Claudius Victor, his sister's son. They sacked the headquarters of a cavalry regiment at Asciburgium as they passed by, and swooped upon the legionary camp so unexpectedly that Vocula was unable to address his men or deploy them in line of battle. All he could do when the alarm sounded was to urge them to form a central core of legionaries, around which the auxiliaries clustered in a ragged array. The cavalry charged, but were brought up short by the disciplined ranks of the enemy and forced back upon their fellows. What followed was a massacre, not a battle. The Nervian cohorts, too, were induced by panic or treachery to expose the Roman flanks. Thus the attack penetrated to the legions. They lost their standards, retreated within the rampart, and were already suffering heavy losses there when fresh help suddenly altered the luck of battle. Some Basque cohorts recruited by Galba had been summoned to the Rhineland. As they neared the camp, they heard the shouts of men fighting. While the enemy's attention was elsewhere, they charged them from the rear and caused a widespread panic out of all proportion to their numbers. It was thought that the main army had arrived, either from Novaesium or from Mogontiacum. This misconception gave the Romans new heart: confident in the strength of others, they regained their own. The pick of the Batavian fighters — at least so far as the infantry were concerned— lay dead upon the field; the cavalry got away with the standards and prisoners taken in the first phase of the engagement. In this day's work casualties in slain were heavier on our side, but consisted of the poorer fighters, whereas the Germans lost their very best.
34. The rival commanders were equally to blame: both deserved their defeat, and both threw away victory. If Civilis had offered battle in greater strength, he could not possibly have been surrounded by this small number of cohorts, but would have forced his way into the camp and destroyed it. Vocula, on the other hand, failed to inform himself of the enemy approach and was therefore beaten as soon as he came out, and then, distrusting his success, wasted several days to no purpose before moving against the enemy. Had he kept them on the run from the start and exploited the situation while it was fluid, he could have gained sufficient momentum to raise the siege. (31)
Meanwhile, Civilis had tried a psychological approach with the beleaguered garrison, seeking to create the impression that the Romans were finished and that his own force had won a victory. The captured standards and flags were paraded round the camp, and even the prisoners were put on show. One of these ventured on an act of great courage: he shouted out what had really happened, and was cut down on the spot by the Germans. But this merely served to confirm his story, and moreover the sack and smoke of burning farmhouses told them that the victorious army was coming. When Vocula was within sight of the camp, he ordered a halt, and had his position surrounded by ditch and rampart. The general's instructions were that the baggage and heavy kit were to be dumped, so that the army could fight unimpeded. This evoked a storm of criticism. The troops clamoured for immediate action, and threatening their officers had by now become a habit. Without even giving themselves time to form up properly, the disarrayed and exhausted troops went into battle. Indeed, Civilis was by this time close upon them, relying as much on the enemy's blunders as upon the courage of his own troops. The Romans fought with mixed success, and the trouble-makers turned out to be cowards. Some men, however, remembered their recent victory. Standing firm and striking hard, they heartened themselves and their neighbours, and when the line was restored signalled to the besieged to seize their chance. From the walls the garrison could see everything, and they dashed out by every gate of the camp. Moreover, it happened that Civilis' horse fell, and its rider was thrown. Both armies believed the rumour that he was injured or killed, and this had a tremendous effect in dismaying the rebels and encouraging their enemies. But Vocula let the retreating Germans go, and set about strengthening the rampart and towers of the camp, as if the siege were soon to be renewed. After so many failures to exploit victory, there were good grounds for the suspicion that he preferred fighting. (32)
35. The most exhausting feature of this campaign for our armies was the lack of supplies. The legionary baggage was sent to Novaesium with the non-combatants so that they could bring up grain from there by road, the river being controlled by the enemy. The first convoy got through without worries, for Civilis was still licking his wounds. But then he got wind that the supply train had again been sent off to Novaesium with its guard of cohorts and was proceeding on its way as if all were peaceful. Only a few men remained at the command posts, their arms were stowed away in the wagons, (33) and everybody was straying about with a complete absence of discipline. Civilis attacked in good order after sending parties ahead to hold the bridges, where the roads narrowed. (34) Fighting developed along the extended column of march, but it was indecisive, and finally night made them break contact. The cohorts rushed on to Gelduba, which still as previously had its camp, guarded by the garrison left there. It was quite obvious that the return trip would involve serious risk for the heavily-laden and demoralized train. Vocula therefore reinforced his troops with l ,000 men taken from the Fifth and Fifteenth Legions besieged at Vetera . (35)These soldiers were insubordinate and hated their officers. More started off than had been detailed, and on the march declared roundly that they had no intention of putting up any longer with short rations and the trickery of their commanders. Those who had stayed behind, however, complained that they had been left in the lurch by the withdrawal of a portion of the legions. Hence there was trouble in both places— one part asked Vocula to return to the camp, the other refused to do so.
36. In the meantime Civilis invested Vetera, while Vocula retreated to Gelduba and from there to Novaesium. He then won a cavalry engagement near Novaesium. But success was no less effective than defeat in stimulating the troops to destroy their leaders. When the addition of the detachments from the Fifth and Fifteenth had swelled their numbers, the legions demanded a bounty, having discovered that Vitellius had sent the money for this. Hordeonius lost little time in handing it over in the name of Vespasian, and it was this step which did more than anything else to foster mutiny. In a wild riot of pleasure, feasting and seditious gatherings at night, their old enmity for Hordeonius revived, and as none of the officers dared to resist a movement which darkness had robbed of the last vestige of restraint, the troops dragged him out of bed and murdered him. The same fate was in store for Vocula, but he disguised himself in the darkness by dressing as a slave, and managed to get away.
37. As the frenzy subsided, fear returned. They sent some centurions to ask the Gallic communities for reinforcements and pay. For themselves, with the impetuosity, panic and slackness which characterize a leaderless mob, they hastily prepared to resist the approaching Civilis, then promptly dropped their arms and fled. Failure bred dissension, for the contingents from the upper army took an independent line. However, the portraits of Vitellius were replaced in the camps and throughout the nearest communities in Belgica, though Vitellius was already dead. Then the men of the First, Fourth and Twenty-Second repentantly followed Vocula and in his presence once more swore allegiance to Vespasian. They were led off to relieve Mogontiacum, but by this time the besiegers, a mixed force of Chatti, Usipi and Mattiaci, had left the scene with their fill of spoil. Yet they paid in blood for the victory: some troops of ours had fallen upon them on their march, while they were scattered and off their guard. In addition, the Treviri built a battlement and rampart across their own territory, and fought the Germans with heavy losses on both sides. Their subsequent defection tarnished a fine record of service to Rome.
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