The Northern Way

Grimm Centenary: Sigfred-Arminivs and Other Papers

Page 2

The Romans met two natural phenomena in their German wars which disconcerted and appalled them, --- the Ocean, with its apparently aimless and unaccountable tides and tempests, and the Forest, dreadful, difficult, Hercyniae Syluae roborum uastitas intacta aevis et congenita mundo, as Pliny (3) happily puts it; a forest of hardwood timber that covered all middle Germany from Heluetia to the Elbe, that ran out in branches to the plains of Lithuania --- where its last remnants, shrunken but still marvellous, are to be seen --- a deep, dark, pathless barrier, covering hill and dale, river-plain, and mountain slope, interrupted only here and there by swamp and marsh where the springs stagnated among the fallen tree-trunks---

Siluarum saltus, latebras lamasque lutosas;

while beyond these 'close, thick, dense, bush-topped unbroken impassable forests of the West,' as the Irish tale-teller calls them, (4) as beyond Ocean, lay the Unknown, peopled, yet centuries afterwards, to the medieval imagination with 'gorgons and hydras, and chimæras dire.' We who only read of the green leagues of unbroken woodland in South America, and of the vast spaces cleared within this century by the lumberman and the settler in North America, can form little idea of the impression this great wood made on the Roman mind, and the actual difficulties it presented to an advancing army; for the American woods were not manned by Cherusci, or Chatti, or Macomanni, we must remember.

The fame of Arminius is not lessened by the fact that he was not the discoverer or inventor of the plan that led Varus to his destruction, but rather increased by the knowledge that it was to his genius and perseverance, in uniting the warriors of different tribes into a war-league sufficient to man the positions he had chosen and made use of, we owe the defeat that set a bound beyond which the eagle indeed again advanced, but the legionary never more.

CHRONOLOGY OF ARMINIUS' HISTORY

A. U. C.
738. Arminius born. (Tacitus, Ann. Bk. ii. 88).
741. M. Lollius' defeat, 'clades Lolliana.'
742. Drusus' First Campaign on Lower Rhine (Holland and Frisland). Fleet co-operating caught by storm. (Dion, liv. 32.)
743. Drusus' Second Campaign in Cheruscan-land, route by Dion (liv. 33) by way of Lower Rhine, crossing Lippe, then marching through the Sugambri into the land of the Cherusci, where he is nearly defeated in the 'broti'. Establishment of large camps, one on R. Lippe (Lipsborg) near the sources of the Ems, a few miles north of Soest, and one on M. Taunus near present Wiesbaden. (Dion, liv. 33).
744. Drusus' Third Campaign, given by Dion, by the Southern Route, starting from Wiesbaden, north-eastwards through Chatti (Hessen), and thence striking upwards into the Cheruscan-land, crossing the Weser, towards the Swabi (on the Elbe). (Dion, lv. 1, and Florus.)
745. Drusus' death (Dion, lv. 1). Ten years of peaceful Roman sway begin. (Flor. ii. 30, §27-28.)
746. (? ommsen) Maelo the Sugamber king and Theodmere the Swebian king seek refuge with Augustus, ad me supplices confugerunt (Mon. Ancyr.)
747. Tiberius on the Rhine (Velleius).
748. Tiberius sent to Rhodes.
754. A.D. 1.
755. Rising in Germany (Vellei. ii. 104). End of ten years of peace, Arminius probably serving with the Romans.
757. Tiberius' First Campaign (in which Velleius serves) in the Cheruscan-land, encamping for the winter, 757-8, at the sources of the Lippe (Lipp-spring). (Vellei. ii. 105).
758. Tiberius' Second Campaign (in which Velleius serves) with co-operation of fleet starting from the Rhine mouths and sailing up the Elbe to meet the army (at Magdeburg?). (Vellei. ii. 106, Mon. Ancyr.)
759. Tiberius' Third Campaign against Maroboduus, frustrated by the rising in Pannonia. (Vellei. ii. 109.)
759-761. Varus in Germany among the Cherusci. (Vellei. ii. 117, and Dion, lvi. 18.)
762. The Varus Catastrophe; 17th, 18th, and 19th Legions with three wing squadrons and six cohorts were put to the sword. (Dion, lvi. 19-22; Vellei. ii. 117-120; Flor. ii. 30.)
767. Augustus dies. Tiberius succeeds. Germanicus on the Rhine.
768. Germanicus' First Campaign in revenge of Varus. Arminius' queen and other noble Teuton ladies fall by treachery into the hands of the Romans. (Tac. Ann. i. 58, 59.) Caecina at Teutoburg. Battle with Arminius. (Tac. Ann. i. 59-61.) Thoumelicus born in captivity.
769. Germanicus' Second Campaign. Battle on the Weser. Wreck of the Roman Armada. (Tac. Ann. ii. 18-25.) Tiberius recalls Germanicus.
770. May 26. Germanicus' triumph at Rome. (Tac. Ann. ii. 41; Strabo, vii. ch. 4. etc.) Livy dies, writing up to the last, but ending his main work at the year 745.
770 or 771. Strabo writes Bk. VII of his Geography.
771-772. Arminius wages war with Maroboduus. (Tac. Ann. ii. 45, 46.)
772. Germanicus dies. (Tac. Ann. ii. 72.)
773. Maroboduus, defeated by Arminius, yields himself up to Tiberius and becomes a Roman state-prisoner. Tiberius' oration in the Senate (exstat oratio), whence Tacitus draws his account on the Swebian king. (Tac. Ann. ii. 62, 63.)
774. Arminius treasonably slain by his kinsfolk, after twelve years' rule. (Tac. Ann. ii. 88.)
776. Pliny the Elder, the author of 'Bella Germaniae,' (3) born.
783. Paterculus writes his History.
791. Ludibrium, end of Thoumelicos. (4) Maroboduus dies? (Tac. Ann. i. 58.)
851. Tacitus writes Germania.
c. 863. Tacitus compiles the first books of the Annals, using Pliny's work, Teuton Camp-songs, Acta Senatus, and many other resources.

Notes

3. Pliny Ep. iii. 5; Tac. Ann. i. 69. Nominis umbra is, however, all that remains of what must have been an important work. [Back]

4. Thoumelicos is triethj on May 26, 770, yet he cannot have been more than two years and two or three months old, unless (which is not impossible) his mother was captured in the autumn of 767. The fate of the boy, and the ludibrium (whatever the details) strangely recall the story of Philip, eldest son of William the Silent, as told by Motley. [Back]

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