Caius Cornelius Tacitus.

Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II online

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his inspired imprudence and the assistance of the braver men in
retaking the bridge. Leaving a picked band to hold it, he hurried back
to the camp, where he found that the companies of the legions which
had surrendered at Bonn and Novaesium[441] were all broken up, few men
were left at their posts, and the eagles were all but surrounded by
the enemy. He turned on them in blazing anger, 'It is not Flaccus or
Vocula that you are deserting. There is no "treason" about me. I have
done nothing to be ashamed of, except that I was rash enough to
believe that you had forgotten your Gallic ties and awakened to the
memory of your Roman allegiance. Am I to be numbered with Numisius
and Herennius?[442] Then you can say that all your generals have
fallen either by your hands or the enemy's. Go and tell the news to
Vespasian, or rather, to Civilis and Classicus - they are nearer at
hand - that you have deserted your general on the field of battle.
There will yet come legions who will not leave me unavenged or you

All he said was true, and the other officers heaped the same 78
reproaches on their heads. The men were drawn up in cohorts and
companies, since it was impossible to deploy with the enemy swarming
round them, and, the fight being inside the rampart, the tents and
baggage were a serious encumbrance. Tutor and Classicus and Civilis,
each at his post, were busy rallying their forces, appealing to the
Gauls to fight for freedom, the Batavians for glory, and the Germans
for plunder. Everything, indeed, went well for the enemy until the
Twenty-first legion, who had rallied in a clearer space than any of
the others, first sustained their charge and then repulsed them. Then,
by divine providence, on the very point of victory the enemy suddenly
lost their nerve and turned tail. They themselves attributed their
panic to the appearance of the Roman auxiliaries, who, after being
scattered by the first charge, formed again on the hill-tops and were
taken for fresh reinforcements. However, what really cost the Gauls
their victory was that they let their enemy alone and indulged in
ignoble squabbles over the spoil. Thus after Cerialis' carelessness
had almost caused disaster, his pluck now saved the day, and he
followed up his success by capturing the enemy's camp and destroying
it before nightfall.

Cerialis' troops were allowed short respite. Cologne was 79
clamouring for help and offering to surrender Civilis' wife and sister
and Classicus' daughter, who had been left behind there as pledges of
the alliance. In the meantime the inhabitants had massacred all the
stray Germans to be found in the town. They were now alarmed at this,
and had good reason to implore aid before the enemy should recover
their strength and bethink themselves of victory, or at any rate of
revenge. Indeed, Civilis already had designs on Cologne, and he was
still formidable, for the most warlike of his cohorts, composed of
Chauci and Frisii,[443] was still in full force at Tolbiacum,[444]
within the territory of Cologne. However, he changed his plans on
receiving the bitter news that this force had been entrapped and
destroyed by the inhabitants of Cologne. They had entertained them at
a lavish banquet, drugged them with wine, shut the doors upon them and
burned the place to the ground. At the same moment Cerialis came by
forced marches to the relief of Cologne. A further anxiety haunted
Civilis. He was afraid that the Fourteenth legion, in conjunction with
the fleet from Britain,[445] might harry the Batavian coast. However,
Fabius Priscus, who was in command, led his troops inland into the
country of the Nervii and Tungri, who surrendered to him. The
Canninefates[446] made an unprovoked attack upon the fleet and sank or
captured the greater number of the ships. They also defeated a band of
Nervian volunteers who had been recruited in the Roman interest.
Classicus secured a further success against an advance-guard of
cavalry which Cerialis had sent forward to Novaesium. These repeated
checks, though unimportant in themselves, served to dim the lustre of
the recent Roman victory.[447]


[416] Round Reims.

[417] Chap. 39.

[418] His sister was Titus's first wife.

[419] Augustus had made it a rule that the _praefectus
praetorio_ should come from the equestrian order.

[420] The text is here uncertain, and some historians maintain
that the third of these legions was not XIII Gemina but VII
Claudia (v. Henderson, _Civil War_, &c., p. 291).

[421] Great St. Bernard and Mt. Genèvre.

[422] Little St. Bernard.

[423] See iii. 5.

[424] i.e. not raised in any one locality.

[425] Cp. ii. 22.

[426] The Triboci were in Lower Alsace; the Vangiones north of
them in the district of Worms; the Caeracates probably to the
north again, in the district between Mainz and the Nahe

[427] Bingen.

[428] Chap. 62.

[429] Round Metz.

[430] See chap. 59.

[431] The other detachments of legions IV and XXII.

[432] Riol.

[433] Hordeonius Flaccus, Vocula, Herennius, and Numisius.

[434] Legions I and XVI.

[435] They had, as a matter of fact, changed their allegiance
no less than six times since the outbreak of the civil war.

[436] Ariovistus, king of the Suebi, summoned to aid one
Gallic confederacy against another, formed the ambition of
conquering Gaul, but was defeated by Julius Caesar near
Besançon (Vesontio) in 58 B.C.

[437] See chap. 68.

[438] Tutor erred. Cerialis had also the Twenty-first from
Vindonissa, Felix's auxiliary cohorts, and the troops he had
found at Mainz (see chaps. 70 and 71).

[439] He suppresses his own defeat at Bingen (chap. 70).

[440] The town lay on the right bank of the Moselle; the Roman
camp on the left bank between the river and the hills. There
was only one bridge.

[441] The Sixteenth had its permanent camp at Novaesium, the
First at Bonn. Both surrendered at Novaesium (cp. chap. 59).

[442] See chaps. 59 and 70.

[443] The Frisii occupied part of Friesland; the Chauci lay
east of them, between the Ems and Weser.

[444] Zülpich.

[445] A small flotilla on guard in the Channel. It probably
now transported the Fourteenth and landed them at Boulogne.

[446] Cp. chap. 15.

[447] The narrative is resumed from this point in v. 14.


It was about this time that Mucianus gave orders for the murder of 80
Vitellius' son,[448] on the plea that dissension would continue until
all the seeds of war were stamped out. He also refused to allow
Antonius Primus to go out on Domitian's staff, being alarmed at his
popularity among the troops and at the man's own vanity, which would
brook no equal, much less a superior. Antonius accordingly went to
join Vespasian, whose reception, though not hostile, proved a
disappointment. The emperor was drawn two ways. On the one side were
Antonius' services: it was undeniable that his generalship had ended
the war. In the other scale were Mucianus' letters. Besides which,
every one else seemed ready to rake up the scandals of his past life
and inveigh against his vanity and bad temper. Antonius himself did
his best to provoke hostility by expatiating to excess on his
services, decrying the other generals as incompetent cowards, and
stigmatizing Caecina as a prisoner who had surrendered. Thus without
any open breach of friendship he gradually declined lower and lower in
the emperor's favour.

During the months which Vespasian spent at Alexandria waiting for 81
the regular season of the summer winds[449] to ensure a safe voyage,
there occurred many miraculous events manifesting the goodwill of
Heaven and the special favour of Providence towards him. At Alexandria
a poor workman who was well known to have a disease of the eye, acting
on the advice of Serapis, whom this superstitious people worship as
their chief god, fell at Vespasian's feet demanding with sobs a cure
for his blindness, and imploring that the emperor would deign to
moisten his eyes and eyeballs with the spittle from his mouth. Another
man with a maimed hand, also inspired by Serapis, besought Vespasian
to imprint his footmark on it. At first Vespasian laughed at them and
refused. But they insisted. Half fearing to be thought a fool, half
stirred to hopes by their petition and by the flattery of his
courtiers, he eventually told the doctors to form an opinion whether
such cases of blindness and deformity could be remedied by human aid.
The doctors talked round the question, saying that in the one case the
power of sight was not extinct and would return, if certain
impediments were removed; in the other case the limbs were distorted
and could be set right again by the application of an effective
remedy: this might be the will of Heaven and the emperor had perhaps
been chosen as the divine instrument. They added that he would gain
all the credit, if the cure were successful, while, if it failed, the
ridicule would fall on the unfortunate patients. This convinced
Vespasian that there were no limits to his destiny: nothing now seemed
incredible. To the great excitement of the bystanders, he stepped
forward with a smile on his face and did as the men desired him.
Immediately the hand recovered its functions and daylight shone once
more in the blind man's eyes. Those who were present still attest both
miracles to-day,[450] when there is nothing to gain by lying.

This occurrence deepened Vespasian's desire to visit the 82
holy-place and consult Serapis about the fortunes of the empire. He
gave orders that no one else was to be allowed in the temple, and then
went in. While absorbed in his devotions, he suddenly saw behind him
an Egyptian noble, named Basilides, whom he knew to be lying ill
several days' journey from Alexandria. He inquired of the priests
whether Basilides had entered the temple that day. He inquired of
every one he met whether he had been seen in the city. Eventually he
sent some horsemen, who discovered that at the time Basilides was
eighty miles away. Vespasian therefore took what he had seen for a
divine apparition, and guessed the meaning of the oracle from the name

The origins of the god Serapis are not given in any Roman 83
authorities. The high-priests of Egypt give the following account:
King Ptolemy, who was the first of the Macedonians to put the power of
Egypt on a firm footing,[452] was engaged in building walls and
temples, and instituting religious cults for his newly founded city of
Alexandria, when there appeared to him in his sleep a young man of
striking beauty and supernatural stature, who warned him to send his
most faithful friends to Pontus to fetch his image. After adding that
this would bring luck to the kingdom, and that its resting-place would
grow great and famous, he appeared to be taken up into heaven in a
sheet of flame. Impressed by this miraculous prophecy, Ptolemy
revealed his vision to the priests of Egypt, who are used to
interpreting such things. As they had but little knowledge of Pontus
or of foreign cults, he consulted an Athenian named Timotheus, a
member of the Eumolpid clan,[453] whom he had brought over from
Eleusis to be overseer of religious ceremonies, and asked him what
worship and what god could possibly be meant. Timotheus found some
people who had travelled in Pontus and learnt from them, that near a
town called Sinope there was a temple, which had long been famous in
the neighbourhood as the seat of Jupiter-Pluto,[454] and near it there
also stood a female figure, which was commonly called Proserpine.
Ptolemy was like most despots, easily terrified at first, but liable,
when his panic was over, to think more of his pleasures than of his
religious duties. The incident was gradually forgotten, and other
thoughts occupied his mind until the vision was repeated in a more
terrible and impressive form than before, and he was threatened with
death and the destruction of his kingdom if he failed to fulfil his
instructions. He at once gave orders that representatives should be
sent with presents to King Scydrothemis, who was then reigning at
Sinope, and on their departure he instructed them to consult the
oracle of Apollo at Delphi. They made a successful voyage and received
a clear answer from the oracle: they were to go and bring back the
image of Apollo's father but leave his sister's behind.

On their arrival at Sinope they laid their presents, their 84
petition, and their king's instructions before Scydrothemis. He was in
some perplexity. He was afraid of the god and yet alarmed by the
threats of his subjects, who opposed the project: then, again, he
often felt tempted by the envoys' presents and promises. Three years
passed. Ptolemy's zeal never abated for a moment. He persisted in his
petition, and kept sending more and more distinguished envoys, more
ships, more gold. Then a threatening vision appeared to Scydrothemis,
bidding him no longer thwart the god's design. When he still
hesitated, he was beset by every kind of disease and disaster: the
gods were plainly angry and their hand was heavier upon him every day.
He summoned an assembly and laid before it the divine commands, his
own and Ptolemy's visions, and the troubles with which they were
visited. The king found the people unfavourable. They were jealous of
Egypt and fearful of their own future. So they surged angrily round
the temple. The story now grows stranger still. The god himself, it
says, embarked unaided on one of the ships that lay beached on the
shore, and by a miracle accomplished the long sea-journey and landed
at Alexandria within three days. A temple worthy of so important a
city was then built in the quarter called Rhacotis, on the site of an
ancient temple of Serapis and Isis.[455] This is the most widely
accepted account of the god's origin and arrival. Some people, I am
well aware, maintain that the god was brought from the Syrian town of
Seleucia during the reign of Ptolemy, the third of that name.[456]
Others, again, say it was this same Ptolemy, but make the place of
origin the famous town of Memphis,[457] once the bulwark of ancient
Egypt. Many take the god for Aesculapius, because he cures disease:
others for Osiris, the oldest of the local gods; some, again, for
Jupiter, as being the sovereign lord of the world. But the majority of
people, either judging by what are clearly attributes of the god or by
an ingenious process of conjecture, identify him with Pluto.

Domitian and Mucianus were now on their way to the Alps.[458] 85
Before reaching the mountains they received the good news of the
victory over the Treviri, the truth of which was fully attested by the
presence of their leader Valentinus. His courage was in no way crushed
and his face still bore witness to the proud spirit he had shown. He
was allowed a hearing, merely to see what he was made of, and
condemned to death. At his execution some one cast it in his teeth
that his country was conquered, to which he replied, 'Then I am
reconciled to death.'

Mucianus now gave utterance to an idea which he had long cherished,
though he pretended it was a sudden inspiration. This was that, since
by Heaven's grace the forces of the enemy had been broken, it would
ill befit Domitian, now that the war was practically over, to stand
in the way of the other generals to whom the credit belonged. Were the
fortunes of the empire or the safety of Gaul at stake, it would be
right that a Caesar should take the field; the Canninefates and Batavi
might be left to minor generals. So Domitian was to stay at Lugdunum
and there show them the power and majesty of the throne at close
quarters. By abstaining from trifling risks he would be ready to cope
with any greater crisis.

The ruse was detected, but it could not be unmasked. That was part 86
of the courtier's policy.[459] Thus they proceeded to Lugdunum. From
there Domitian is supposed to have sent messengers to Cerialis to test
his loyalty, and to ask whether the general would transfer his army
and his allegiance to him, should he present himself in person.
Whether Domitian's idea was to plan war against his father or to
acquire support against his brother, cannot be decided, for Cerialis
parried his proposal with a salutary snub and treated it as a boy's
day-dream. Realizing that older men despised his youth, Domitian gave
up even those functions of government which he had hitherto performed.
Aping bashfulness and simple tastes, he hid his feelings under a cloak
of impenetrable reserve, professing literary tastes and a passion for
poetry. Thus he concealed his real self and withdrew from all rivalry
with his brother, whose gentler and altogether different nature he
perversely misconstrued.


[448] Cp. ii. 59.

[449] During June and July before the Etesian winds (cp. ii. 98)
began to blow from the north-west.

[450] Circa A.D. 108.

[451] Meaning 'king's son', and therefore portending sovereignty.

[452] i.e. Ptolemy Soter, who founded the dynasty of the
Lagidae, and reigned 306-283 B.C.

[453] They inherited the priesthood of Demeter at Eleusis and
supplied the hierophants who conducted the mysteries.

[454] i.e. the sovereign god of the underworld.

[455] It is evident from these words that the worship of
Serapis was ancient in Egypt. It seems to be suggested that
the arrival of this statue from Pontus did not originate but
invigorated the cult of Serapis. Pluto, Dis, Serapis, are all
names for a god of the underworld. Jupiter seems added vaguely
to give more power to the title. We cannot expect accurate
theology from an amateur antiquarian.

[456] Ptolemy Euergetes, 247-222 B.C.

[457] According to Eustathius there was a Mount Sinopium near
Memphis. This suggests an origin for the title Sinopitis,
applied to Serapis, and a cause for the invention of the
romantic story about Sinope in Pontus.

[458] Cp. chap. 68.

[459] i.e. Mucianus was too cunning to give Domitian any
excuse for declaring his suspicions.



Early in this same year[460] Titus Caesar had been entrusted by his 1
father with the task of completing the reduction of Judaea.[461] While
he and his father were both still private citizens, Titus had
distinguished himself as a soldier, and his reputation for efficiency
was steadily increasing, while the provinces and armies vied with one
another in their enthusiasm for him. Wishing to seem independent of
his good fortune, he always showed dignity and energy in the field.
His affability called forth devotion. He constantly helped in the
trenches and could mingle with his soldiers on the march without
compromising his dignity as general. Three legions awaited him in
Judaea, the Fifth, Tenth, and Fifteenth, all veterans from his
father's army. These were reinforced by the Twelfth from Syria and by
detachments of the Twenty-second and the Third,[462] brought over from
Alexandria. This force was accompanied by twenty auxiliary cohorts and
eight regiments of auxiliary cavalry besides the Kings Agrippa and
Sohaemus, King Antiochus' irregulars,[463] a strong force of Arabs,
who had a neighbourly hatred for the Jews, and a crowd of persons who
had come from Rome and the rest of Italy, each tempted by the hope of
securing the first place in the prince's still unoccupied affections.
With this force Titus entered the enemy's country at the head of his
column, sending out scouts in all directions, and holding himself
ready to fight. He pitched his camp not far from Jerusalem.

Since I am coming now to describe the last days of this famous 2
city, it may not seem out of place to recount here its early history.
It is said that the Jews are refugees from Crete,[464] who settled on
the confines of Libya at the time when Saturn was forcibly deposed by
Jupiter. The evidence for this is sought in the name. Ida is a famous
mountain in Crete inhabited by the Idaei,[465] whose name became
lengthened into the foreign form Judaei. Others say that in the reign
of Isis the superfluous population of Egypt, under the leadership of
Hierosolymus and Juda, discharged itself upon the neighbouring
districts, while there are many who think the Jews an Ethiopian stock,
driven to migrate by their fear and dislike of King Cepheus.[466]
Another tradition makes them Assyrian refugees,[467] who, lacking
lands of their own, occupied a district of Egypt, and later took to
building cities of their own and tilling Hebrew territory and the
frontier-land of Syria. Yet another version assigns to the Jews an
illustrious origin as the descendants of the Solymi - a tribe famous in
Homer[468] - who founded the city and called it Hiero_solyma_ after
their own name.[469]

Most authorities agree that a foul and disfiguring disease once 3
broke out in Egypt, and that King Bocchoris,[470] on approaching the
oracle of Ammon and inquiring for a remedy, was told to purge his
kingdom of the plague and to transport all who suffered from it into
some other country, for they had earned the disfavour of Heaven. A
motley crowd was thus collected and abandoned in the desert. While all
the other outcasts lay idly lamenting, one of them, named Moses,
advised them not to look for help to gods or men, since both had
deserted them, but to trust rather in themselves and accept as divine
the guidance of the first being by whose aid they should get out of
their present plight. They agreed, and set out blindly to march
wherever chance might lead them. Their worst distress came from lack
of water. When they were already at death's door and lying prostrate
all over the plain, it so happened that a drove of wild asses moved
away from their pasture to a rock densely covered with trees. Guessing
the truth from the grassy nature of the ground, Moses followed and
disclosed an ample flow of water.[471] This saved them. Continuing
their march for six successive days, on the seventh they routed the
natives and gained possession of the country. There they consecrated
their city and their temple.

To ensure his future hold over the people, Moses introduced a new 4
cult, which was the opposite of all other religions. All that we hold
sacred they held profane, and allowed practices which we abominate.
They dedicated in a shrine an image of the animal[472] whose guidance
had put an end to their wandering and thirst. They killed a ram,
apparently as an insult to Ammon, and also sacrificed a bull, because
the Egyptians worship the bull Apis.[473] Pigs are subject to leprosy;
so they abstain from pork in memory of their misfortune and the foul
plague with which they were once infected. Their frequent fasts[474]
bear witness to the long famine they once endured, and, in token of
the corn they carried off, Jewish bread is to this day made without
leaven. They are said to have devoted the seventh day to rest, because
that day brought an end to their troubles.[475] Later, finding
idleness alluring, they gave up the seventh year as well to
sloth.[476] Others maintain that they do this in honour of
Saturn;[477] either because their religious principles are derived
from the Idaei, who are supposed to have been driven out with Saturn
and become the ancestors of the Jewish people; or else because, of the
seven constellations which govern the lives of men, the star of Saturn
moves in the topmost orbit and exercises peculiar influence, and also
because most of the heavenly bodies move round[478] their courses in
multiples of seven.

Whatever their origin, these rites are sanctioned by their 5
antiquity. Their other customs are impious and abominable, and owe
their prevalence to their depravity. For all the most worthless
rascals, renouncing their national cults, were always sending money to
swell the sum of offerings and tribute.[479] This is one cause of
Jewish prosperity. Another is that they are obstinately loyal to each
other, and always ready to show compassion, whereas they feel nothing
but hatred and enmity for the rest of the world.[480] They eat and

Online LibraryCaius Cornelius TacitusTacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II → online text (page 26 of 29)