Meanwhile there was an outbreak among the Chauci, begun by some veterans
of the mutinous legions on garrison duty. They were quelled for a
time by the instant execution of two soldiers. Such was the order
of Mennius, the camp-prefect, more as a salutary warning than as a
legal act. Then, when the commotion increased, he fled and having
been discovered, as his hiding place was now unsafe, he borrowed a
resource from audacity. “It was not,” he told them, “the camp-prefect,
it was Germanicus, their general, it was Tiberius, their emperor,
whom they were insulting.” At the same moment, overawing all resistance,
he seized the standard, faced round towards the river-bank, and exclaiming
that whoever left the ranks, he would hold as a deserter, he led them
back into their winter-quarters, disaffected indeed, but cowed.

Meanwhile envoys from the Senate had an interview with Germanicus,
who had now returned, at the Altar of the Ubii. Two legions, the first
and twentieth, with veterans discharged and serving under a standard,
were there in winter-quarters. In the bewilderment of terror and conscious
guilt they were penetrated by an apprehension that persons had come
at the Senate’s orders to cancel the concessions they had extorted
by mutiny. And as it is the way with a mob to fix any charge, however
groundless, on some particular person, they reproached Manatius Plancus,
an ex-consul and the chief envoy, with being the author of the Senate’s
decree. At midnight they began to demand the imperial standard kept
in Germanicus’s quarters, and having rushed together to the entrance,
burst the door, dragged Caesar from his bed, and forced him by menaces
of death to give up the standard. Then roaming through the camp-streets,
they met the envoys, who on hearing of the tumult were hastening to
Germanicus. They loaded them with insults, and were on the point of
murdering them, Plancus especially, whose high rank had deterred him
from flight. In his peril he found safety only in the camp of the
first legion. There clasping the standards and the eagle, he sought
to protect himself under their sanctity. And had not the eagle-bearer,
Calpurnius, saved him from the worst violence, the blood of an envoy
of the Roman people, an occurrence rare even among our foes, would
in a Roman camp have stained the altars of the gods.

At last, with the light of day, when the general and the soldiers
and the whole affair were clearly recognised, Germanicus entered the
camp, ordered Plancus to be conducted to him, and received him on
the tribunal. He then upbraided them with their fatal infatuation,
revived not so much by the anger of the soldiers as by that of heaven,
and explained the reasons of the envoys’ arrival. On the rights of
ambassadors, on the dreadful and undeserved peril of Plancus, and
also on the disgrace into which the legion had brought itself, he
dwelt with the eloquence of pity, and while the throng was confounded
rather than appeased, he dismissed the envoys with an escort of auxiliary

Amid the alarm all condemned Germanicus for not going to the Upper
Army, where he might find obedience and help against the rebels. “Enough
and more than enough blunders,” they said, “had been made by granting
discharges and money, indeed, by conciliatory measures. Even if Germanicus
held his own life cheap, why should he keep a little son and a pregnant
wife among madmen who outraged every human right? Let these, at least,
be restored safely to their grandsire and to the State.”

When his wife spurned the notion, protesting that she was a descendant
of the Divine Augustus and could face peril with no degenerate spirit,
he at last embraced her and the son of their love with many tears,
and after long delay compelled her to depart. Slowly moved along a
pitiable procession of women, a general’s fugitive wife with a little
son in her bosom, her friends’ wives weeping round her, as with her
they were dragging themselves from the camp. Not less sorrowful were
those who remained.

There was no appearance of the triumphant general about Germanicus,
and he seemed to be in a conquered city rather than in his own camp,
while groans and wailings attracted the ears and looks even of the
soldiers. They came out of their tents, asking “what was that mournful
sound? What meant the sad sight? Here were ladies of rank, not a centurion
to escort them, not a soldier, no sign of a prince’s wife, none of
the usual retinue. Could they be going to the Treveri, to be subjects
of the foreigner?” Then they felt shame and pity, and remembered his
father Agrippa, her grandfather Augustus, her father-in-law Drusus,
her own glory as a mother of children, her noble purity. And there
was her little child too, born in the camp, brought up amid the tents
of the legions, whom they used to call in soldiers’ fashion, Caligula,
because he often wore the shoe so called, to win the men’s goodwill.
But nothing moved them so much as jealousy towards the Treveri. They
entreated, stopped the way, that Agrippina might return and remain,
some running to meet her, while most of them went back to Germanicus.
He, with a grief and anger that were yet fresh, thus began to address
the throng around him-

“Neither wife nor son are dearer to me than my father and the State.
But he will surely have the protection of his own majesty, the empire
of Rome that of our other armies. My wife and children whom, were
it a question of your glory, I would willingly expose to destruction,
I now remove to a distance from your fury, so that whatever wickedness
is thereby threatened, may be expiated by my blood only, and that
you may not be made more guilty by the slaughter of a great-grandson
of Augustus, and the murder of a daughter-in-law of Tiberius. For
what have you not dared, what have you not profaned during these days?
What name shall I give to this gathering? Am I to call you soldiers,
you who have beset with entrenchments and arms your general’s son,
or citizens, when you have trampled under foot the authority of the
Senate? Even the rights of public enemies, the sacred character of
the ambassador, and the law of nations have been violated by you.
The Divine Julius once quelled an army’s mutiny with a single word
by calling those who were renouncing their military obedience ‘citizens.’
The Divine Augustus cowed the legions who had fought at Actium with
one look of his face. Though I am not yet what they were, still, descended
as I am from them, it would be a strange and unworthy thing should
I be spurned by the soldiery of Spain or Syria. First and twentieth
legions, you who received your standards from Tiberius, you, men of
the twentieth who have shared with me so many battles and have been
enriched with so many rewards, is not this a fine gratitude with which
you are repaying your general? Are these the tidings which I shall
have to carry to my father when he hears only joyful intelligence
from our other provinces, that his own recruits, his own veterans
are not satisfied with discharge or pay; that here only centurions
are murdered, tribunes driven away, envoys imprisoned, camps and rivers
stained with blood, while I am myself dragging on a precarious existence
amid those who hate me?
The Annals by Tacitus