Florus - Epitomae
(Book 2, 88)
The Varian Disaster
(Augustus) could not have believed that conquering Germania paying would come at such high cost! Far more shameful was her loss than the glory of her conquest. But since he knew that his father C. (Iulius) Caesar had crossed the Rhine twice to start a war, he felt compelled to make her a province in honor (of his father); and it would have been done, if the savages could have stood our vices as well as our command (/authority).
Being sent to that province, Drusus was the first to subject the Usipetes, then overran the Tencteri and Chatti. Then he made up an artificial hill from the spoils and the standards of the Marcomanni just like a monument of triumph. From there he attacked the very strong tribes of the Cherusci, Suebi, and Sugambri equally, who after crucifying twenty centurions, started the war with this sacrifice as it were, with their confidence in victory being so strong, that they divided the spoils by making a contract in advance. The Cherusci chose the horses, the Suebi gold and silver, and the Sigambri the captives; but the result turned out the opposite. Being the winner, Drusus divided their horses, livestocks, torques, and themselves as spoils and sold them.
Further on, he founded bases and camps everywhere along the rivers Maas, Elbe, and Weser. On the banks of the Rhine he would have ordered more than fifty camps. He joined Bonna and Gesoriacum by erecting a bridge and protected them with fleets. He opened the German forest which was hostile and inaccessible those times. In the end, there was such a peace in Germania that it seemed the people had changed, the land was different, the climate itself had become more mild and friendly than it used to be. In the end, the Senate themselves, though they had done never before, gave the bravest young man his epithet not out of flattery, but because of his merits, after he had died there.
But it is even more difficult to hold a province than to conquer it; by force they are obtained, by law they are retained. Therefore there was only a short period of bliss. Of course, the Germans were more losers than lords, and they were watching our customs more suspiciously than (they had watched) our arms in the days of general Drusus; after he had died, they started to hate Quinctilius Varus' arbitrariness and arrogance as much as his cruelty. He dared to call assemblies, enacted decrees carelessly, as if he could hem the savages' brutality by using a lictor's rod and a herald's voice. But those people who mourned over their swords since long covered with rust and their idle horses, as soon as they encountered robes or laws hardened by arms, they rose in arms headed by Arminius.
Since Varus meanwhile had such confidence in peace that he did not get worried, after the conspiracy was revealed to him by Segestes, being the only one among the rulers. Therefore they revolted on the spur of the moment, and while he was unprepared and did not fear anything alike, when he - O confidence! - hurried to a tribunal, they attacked him; they took the camps (and) massacred three legions. It is said that Varus surrendered to fate the same way as Paulus did at Cannae and followed in his spirit.
There is nothing more bloody than that murdering through the marshes and the forests, nothing more intolerable than the savages' blasphemy, especially against the patrons (judges/highly ranked officers) - some were blinded, others had their hands cut off, they sewed the mouth of one after cutting off his tongue, and the savage holding it in his hand, said: "Finally you stop hissing, you viper!" Even the body of the consul (Varus) was dug up again, whom the soldiers had buried piously.
The savages captured the standards and two eagles; the standard bearer tore off the third one, before he would fall into the hands of an enemy squad, fixed it to both sides of his holster (?) and carrying it, he submerged himself in a bloody bog. That defeat made sure that the Empire which had not come to a standstill by the shore of the ocean, came to a standstill at the shores of the Rhine.
Germaniam quoque utinam vincere tanti non putasset! Magis turpiter amissa est quam gloriose adquisita. Sed quatenus sciebat patrem suum C. Caesarem bis transvectum ponte Rhenum quaesisse bellum, in illius honorem concupierant facere provinciam; et factum erat, si barbari tam vitia nostra quam imperia ferre potuisset.
Missus in eam provinciam Drusus primos domuit Vsipetes, inde Tencteros percucurrit et Chattos Nam (Tum?) Marcomannorum spoliis et insignibus quendam editum tumulumin tropaei modum excoluit. Inde validissimas nationes Cheruscos Suebosque et Sicambros pariter adgressus est, qui viginti centurionibus in crucemactis hoc velut sacramento sumpserant bellum, adeo certa victoriae spe, ut praedam in antecessum pactione diviserint. Cherusci equos, Suebi aurumet argentum, Sicambri captivos elegarant; sed omnia retrorsum. Victor namque Drusus equos, pecora, torques eorum ipsosque praedam divisit et vendidit.
Praeterea in tutelam provinciae praesidia atque custodias ubique disposuit per Mosam flumen, per Albin, per Visurgim. In Rheni quidem ripa quinquaginta amplius castella dixerit. Bonam et Gesoriacum pontibus iunxitclassibusque firmavit. Invisum atque inaccessum in id tempus Hercynium saltum patefecit. Ea denique in Germania pax erat, ut mutati homines, aliaterra, caelum ipsum mitius molliusque solito videretur. Denique non per adulationem, sed ex meritis, defuncto ibi fortissimo iuvene, ipse, quod numquam alias, senatus cognomen ex provincia dedit.
Sed difficilius est provincias optinere quam facere; viribus parantur, iure retinerentur. Igitur breve id gaudium. Quippe Germani victi magis quamdomini erant, moresque nostros magis quam arma sub imperatore Druso suspiciebant; postquam ille defunctus est, Vari Quintili libidinem ac superbiam haud secus quam saevitiam odisse coeperunt. Ausus ille agere conventum, et incautus edixerat, quasi violentiam barbarum lictoris virgis et praeconis voce posset inhibere. At illi, qui iam pridem robigine obsitos enses inertesque maererent equos, ut primum togas et saeviora armis iura viderunt, duce Arminio arma corripuit (Dripuerunt?).
Cum interim tanta erat Varo pacis fiducia, ut ne prodita quidem per Segesten unum principum coniuratione commoveretur. Itaque improvidum et nihil tale metuentem ex improviso adorti, cum ille - o securitas! - ad tribunal citaret, undique invadunt; castra rapiuntur, tres legiones opprimuntur. Varus perditas res eodem quo Cannensem diem Paulus et fato est animo secutus.
Nihil illa caede per paludes perque silvas cruentius, nihil insultatione barbarum intolerantius, praecipue tamen in causarum patronos. Aliis oculos, aliis manus amputabant, unius os sutum, recisa prius lingua, quam in manu tenens barbarus "tandem" ait, "vipera, sibilare desisti." Ipsius quoque consulis corpus, quod militum pietas humi abdiderat, effossum.
Signa et aquilas duas adhuc barbari possident, tertiam signifer, prius quam in manus hostium veniret, evulsit mersamque intra baltei sui latebras gerens in cruenta paludesic latuit. Hac clade factum, ut imperium, quod in litore Oceani non steterat, in ripa Rheni fluminis staret.
(Special thanks to Iris Kammerer for the Latin text and her translation)
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