To this accordingly he gave his mind, and sent Publius Vitellius and
Caius Antius to collect the taxes of Gaul. Silius, Anteius, and Caecina
had the charge of building a fleet. It seemed that a thousand vessels
were required, and they were speedily constructed, some of small draught
with a narrow stem and stern and a broad centre, that they might bear
the waves more easily; some flat-bottomed, that they might ground
without being injured; several, furnished with a rudder at each end,
so that by a sudden shifting of the oars they might be run into shore
either way. Many were covered in with decks, on which engines for
missiles might be conveyed, and were also fit for the carrying of
horses or supplies, and being equipped with sails as well as rapidly
moved by oars, they assumed, through the enthusiasm of our soldiers,
an imposing and formidable aspect.
The island of the Batavi was the appointed rendezvous, because of
its easy landing-places, and its convenience for receiving the army
and carrying the war across the river. For the Rhine after flowing
continuously in a single channel or encircling merely insignificant
islands, divides itself, so to say, where the Batavian territory begins,
into two rivers, retaining its name and the rapidity of its course
in the stream which washes Germany, till it mingles with the ocean.
On the Gallic bank, its flow is broader and gentler; it is called
by an altered name, the Vahal, by the inhabitants of its shore. Soon
that name too is changed for the Mosa river, through whose vast mouth
it empties itself into the same ocean.
Caesar, however, while the vessels were coming up, ordered Silius,
his lieutenant-general, to make an inroad on the Chatti with a flying
column. He himself, on hearing that a fort on the river Luppia was
being besieged, led six legions to the spot. Silius owing to sudden
rains did nothing but carry off a small booty, and the wife and daughter
of Arpus, the chief of the Chatti. And Caesar had no opportunity of
fighting given him by the besiegers, who dispersed on the rumour of
his advance. They had, however, destroyed the barrow lately raised
in memory of Varus’s legions, and the old altar of Drusus. The prince
restored the altar, and himself with his legions celebrated funeral
games in his father’s honour. To raise a new barrow was not thought
necessary. All the country between the fort Aliso and the Rhine was
thoroughly secured by new barriers and earthworks.
By this time the fleet had arrived, and Caesar, having sent on his
supplies and assigned vessels for the legions and the allied troops,
entered “Drusus’s fosse,” as it was called. He prayed Drusus his father
to lend him, now that he was venturing on the same enterprise, the
willing and favourable aid of the example and wi memory of his counsels
and achievements, and he arrived after a prosperous voyage through
the lakes and the ocean as far as the river Amisia. His fleet remained
there on the left bank of the stream, and it was a blunder that he
did not have it brought up the river. He disembarked the troops, which
were to be marched to the country on the right, and thus several days
were wasted in the construction of bridges. The cavalry and the legions
fearlessly crossed the first estuaries in which the tide had not yet
risen. The rear of the auxiliaries, and the Batavi among the number,
plunging recklessly into the water and displaying their skill in swimming,
fell into disorder, and some were drowned. While Caesar was measuring
out his camp, he was told of a revolt of the Angrivarii in his rear.
He at once despatched Stertinius with some cavalry and a light armed
force, who punished their perfidy with fire and sword.
The waters of the Visurgis flowed between the Romans and the Cherusci.
On its banks stood Arminius with the other chiefs. He asked whether
Caesar had arrived, and on the reply that he was present, he begged
leave to have an interview with his brother. That brother, surnamed
Flavus, was with our army, a man famous for his loyalty, and for having
lost an eye by a wound, a few years ago, when Tiberius was in command.
The permission was then given, and he stepped forth and was saluted
by Arminius, who had removed his guards to a distance and required
that the bowmen ranged on our bank should retire. When they had gone
away, Arminius asked his brother whence came the scar which disfigured
his face, and on being told the particular place and battle, he inquired
what reward he had received. Flavus spoke of increased pay, of a neck
chain, a crown, and other military gifts, while Arminius jeered at
such a paltry recompense for slavery.
Then began a controversy. The one spoke of the greatness of Rome,
the resources of Caesar, the dreadful punishment in store for the
vanquished, the ready mercy for him who surrenders, and the fact that
neither Arminius’s wife nor his son were treated as enemies; the other,
of the claims of fatherland, of ancestral freedom, of the gods of
the homes of Germany, of the mother who shared his prayers, that Flavus
might not choose to be the deserter and betrayer rather than the ruler
of his kinsfolk and relatives, and indeed of his own people.
By degrees they fell to bitter words, and even the river between them
would not have hindered them from joining combat, had not Stertinius
hurried up and put his hand on Flavus, who in the full tide of his
fury was demanding his weapons and his charger. Arminius was seen
facing him, full of menaces and challenging him to conflict. Much
of what he said was in Roman speech, for he had served in our camp
as leader of his fellow-countrymen.
The Annals by Tacitus