Cornelius Tacitus

The Histories

Book IV: LXVI-LXXXVI Cerialis versus Civilis, the German war

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2016 All Rights Reserved

This work may be freely reproduced, stored and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose. Conditions and Exceptions apply.


Book IV:LXVI Civilis extends his power

Now that Civilis’ power had been enhanced by alliance with the citizens of Cologne, he aspired to win over the neighbouring states, or to wage war on them if they refused. He already controlled the Sunuci, organizing their young warriors in cohorts, when, to prevent his further progress, Claudius Labeo offered resistance with a hastily gathered force of Baetasii, Tungri and Nervii. Civilis, however, was confident of his position because he had previously seized the bridge over the Meuse.

An indecisive struggle ensued in the narrows until the Germans, swimming the river, attacked the rear of Labeo’s force; meanwhile Civilis, impulsively or perhaps as planned, advanced to the Tungri front line and called to them, in a loud voice: ‘We did not wage war so the Batavians and Treviri might rule the tribes: such presumption was far from our thoughts. Accept alliance with us: I have come to join you whether as your leader or a mere warrior.’

The Tungri were moved by this, and were sheathing their swords, as Companus and Juvenalis, two of their leading men, surrendered the whole tribe; Labeo escaping before he was surrounded. Civilis accepted the submission of the Baetasii and Nervii also, adding them to his forces. His power was now immense, the minds of the people either subdued, or inclining voluntarily, to his cause.

Book IV:LXVII Dissent among the tribes

Meanwhile Julius Sabinus had destroyed all record of the Lingones’ alliance with Rome, and commanded that he himself be saluted as Caesar. He hurled a disorganised mass of his tribe against the Sequani, bordering on their territory but loyal to us, nor did the Sequani hesitate to fight. Fortune favoured the better cause, the Lingones were routed.

Sabinus promptly fled the battle, as fearful as he had been hasty; spreading a report of his own death, through his destruction by fire of a house to which he had fled, it being believed that he had committed suicide there. How he survived by hiding himself (in a cave) for nine years, the loyalty of his friends, and his wife’s noble example, will be related in the appropriate place.

The Sequani’s success halted the warfare. Gradually the tribes regained respect for the rightful path and the treaties, the Remi foremost, who sent word throughout the Gallic provinces that envoys should gather to debate together whether the tribes chose liberty or peace.

Book IV:LXVIII Mucianus moves against the Gauls

Yet in Rome, Mucianus was troubled, all suggesting a worsening situation, lest the distinguished generals he had already chosen, Gallus Annius and Petilius Cerealis proved unequal to the burden of this war. He could not leave the city ungoverned; and he was fearful of Domitian’s uncontrollable excesses, while he doubted the loyalty, as I have said, of Primus Antonius and Varus Arrius.

Varus, commanding the praetorian guard, held military power. Mucianus removed him from his post, solacing him with control of the grain supply. To placate Domitian, whose feelings were not ill-disposed towards Varus, he appointed Arrecinus Clemens, who was connected to Vespasian’s house through Vespasian’s first wife (Clemens was her brother), to command the praetorian guard. Clemens was a dear friend of Domitian; his father had held that very post with distinction under Caligula, his appointment would be welcomed by the soldiers, and though of senatorial rank, he was equal to both sets of duties. The citizens appointed to the campaign, were some of the most illustrious, while others joined from ambition.

Domitian and Mucianus now made ready, but with different feelings, the one full of youthful hope, the other contriving various delays to restrain the former’s enthusiasm; Mucianus fearing that if Domitian gained control of the army, his decisions in peace or war would be influenced for the worse by immature pride and perverse impulses.

The victorious Eight, Eleventh, Thirteenth and Twenty-first ex-Vitellian legions, and the recently conscripted Second, were marched into Gaul, partly via the Pennine and Cottian Alps, partly via the Graian. Meanwhile the Fourteenth legion was summoned from Britain, and the Sixth and First from Spain.

On news of the approaching army, those Gallic states inclined to milder courses, convened among the Remi. Envoys from the Treviri, led by Julius Valentinus, the fiercest advocate for war, were already there waiting. In a practised speech, he poured out all the usual charges against the might of empire, along with ill-natured invective against the Roman people, being a stirrer-up of turbulence and sedition, pleasing the majority with his heart-felt eloquence.

Book IV:LXIX Julius Auspex counters Valentinus, recommending caution

Julius Auspex, however, one of the foremost of the Remi, countered by speaking of Roman power and the blessings of peace. He said that wars could be started even by cowards, but are carried out with risks even to the bravest, and the legions were now upon them. In this way he checked the enthusiasm of the more experienced by evoking feelings of reverence and loyalty, the younger by feelings of fear and danger: such that the gathering, while praising Valentinus’ spirit, followed Auspex’s advice.

It is a fact that the Treviri and Lingones were at a disadvantage among the Gauls, because they had sided with the Roman Governor, Verginius, during Vindex’s rebellion. Many were deterred by the rivalry among the provinces. ‘Who will lead in the war? Who shall we look to for authority and the auspices? Where, if all goes well, will the seat of government be?’

Not victory as yet, but discord now prevailed. Some boasted, in a quarrelsome manner of their treaties, others of their strength and wealth or their ancient lineage: in their dislike of the future state proposed, they preferred the existing one. Letters were to be written, in the name of the Gallic provinces, asking the Treviri to refrain from warfare, saying that pardon could be won, and there were those ready to plead their case, should they repent of their actions: but Valentinus was again opposed, and shut the ears of his fellow tribesmen to the proposal, though he was less effective in marshalling them for war than in the relentlessness of his speeches.

Book IV:LXX Disarray and defeat among the Gauls

Thus neither the Treviri nor the Lingones, nor any of the other rebellious states, took any actions equal to the seriousness of the crisis. The leaders failed even to consult together, with Civilis ranging the wilds of Belgium, trying to capture or expel Claudius Labeo, while an indolent Classicus was mostly idle, as if a share of the empire were already his to enjoy.

Even Tutor delayed in securing the Upper Rhine and the Alpine passes. Meanwhile the Twenty-first legion penetrated via Windisch, while Sextilius Felix and his auxiliary cohorts entered via Raetia, these forces joined by a select cavalry squadron, originally formed by Vitellius but which had later joined Vespasian’s side. Julius Briganticus commanded, who was Civilis’ nephew, but loathed by his uncle and loathing him in turn, with all the bitter hatred of close relatives.

Tutor first added a fresh levy of Vangiones, Caeracates and Triboci to the Treviran forces, then reinforced these with veteran infantry and cavalry, drawn from legionaries seduced by hope or overcome by fear. In initial encounter, these troops massacred a cohort sent forward by Sextilius Felix, but then as the Roman armies and their leaders approached, they returned with honour to their previous loyalty, followed by the Triboci, Vangiones and Caeracates, while Tutor and his Treviri withdrew to Bingen (Indium), avoiding Mainz.

Tutor trusted in his position, having destroyed the bridge over the Nahe (Nava), but was attacked by cohorts led by Sextilius, outflanked by their discovery of a ford, and forced to flee. This defeat unnerved the Treviri, the mass of tribesmen throwing down their weapons and scattering through the fields, while various chiefs, so as to appear the first to abandon the warfare, fled to the states which had not relinquished their alliance with Rome.

The legions which had defected from Neuss and Bonn to the Treviri, as I mentioned above, now voluntarily swore allegiance to Vespasian. This happened while Valentinus was absent, who, in a fury on his return, wished all things to return to death and confusion, such that those legions withdrew among the Mediomatrici, an allied tribe.

Valentinus and Tutor then drew the Treviri into battle again, executing the two legionary commanders previously held captive, Herennius and Numisius, so strengthening their bond of guilt by minimising their hope of pardon.

Book IV:LXXI Petilius Cerialis defeats Valentinus

This was the status of the war when Petilius Cerealis reached Mainz. His advent inspired hope; he himself being eager for battle, and more inclined to scorn an enemy than beware of one. He roused his soldiers with fierce words, declaring that he would not hesitate a moment once he could engage the enemy.

He sent home to their individual states those troops that been levied throughout Gaul, ordering them to announce that the legions sufficed to maintain the empire. The allies were to return to their peacetime duties, with confidence, since when Roman forces undertook a campaign it was already as good as ended. This action helped to ensure the Gauls’ compliance, since once they had their young men back they tolerated the tribute, accepting their responsibilities more readily once their aggression was ignored.

When Civilis and Classicus heard of Tutor’s defeat, the slaughter of the Treviri, and the enemy’s success everywhere, they were alarmed, and rushed to gather their scattered forces, sending a host of messages to Valentinus, warning him of the danger of a decisive battle.

This prompted Cerealis to send officers to the Mediomatrici, to direct the legions against the enemy by a shorter route, while he united the forces accompanying him with the troops at Mainz. After a three day march he reached Riol (Rigodulum), which Valentinus had occupied with a large force of Treviri. It was protected by the hills and the Moselle, and Valentinus had added stone ramparts behind a deep ditch. These defences failed to deter the Roman general from ordering an infantry assault, or sending his cavalry onto the hills above, since he despised the enemy, believing their hastily gathered forces would enjoy less advantage from their position than his own men would from their abilities.

The Romans were a little delayed in their ascent while exposed to enemy missiles, but as soon as they came to close quarters the Treviri were demolished like a ruined building. And a detachment of cavalry rode along the lower hill slopes and captured the Belgian chieftains, along with their leader, Valentinus.

Book IV:LXXII Cerialis enters Trier

Next day, Cerialis entered Trier. His soldiers, eager to despoil the town, cried out: ‘This is Classicus’ city and Tutor’s; the men whose treason saw our legions besieged and slaughtered. Cremona was torn from Italy’s breast because she thwarted her conquerors for one night. Yet what crime had Cremona committed? This colony, on the borders of Germany, is unharmed, yet rejoices at the plunder of our army, the death of our commanders. Let the spoils fill the imperial treasury: let it suffice us to deal this rebellious colony fire and destruction, and repay the ruin of so many of our forts.’ But Cerealis, fearing the loss of reputation if it were thought his men were imbued with a spirit of licence and savagery, restrained them: and they obeyed, more forgiving of a foreign enemy now they had foregone civil conflict.

Attention then turned to the sad aspect those legions presented which had been summoned from the territory of the Mediomatrici. They stood there, eyes downcast, conscious of their guilt: when the armies met there was no mutual welcome; the soldiers failed to respond to encouragement or consolation, they hid in their tents and avoided the light of day. It was not fear or danger that stupefied them, but shame and dishonour, even the victors being struck dumb.

The latter, not daring to speak out or utter pleas, by tears and silence sought forgiveness for their comrades, until finally Cerealis eased their minds, declaring that whatever had come of the discord between those soldiers and their officers, or of enemy treachery, was an act of fate. This day was to be regarded as the first day of their military service and their oath: neither he nor the emperor would recall their past misdeeds. Then the men were received in camp with the rest, and an edict was read out in each company forbidding any soldier’s taunting of a comrade, in the course of quarrel or dispute, with accusations of murder or sedition.

Book IV:LXXIII Cerialis addresses the tribes

Cerialis shortly called an assembly of the Treviri and Lingones and addressed them in this manner: ‘I have never practised oratory, for the Roman people assert their worth through arms: but since words carry the most weight with you, and you do not value good and evil in themselves, but assess things by the voices of the seditious, I have decided to mention a few matters, now the war has ended, more necessary for you to hear than me to say.

The Roman leaders and commanders entered your lands and those of the other Gauls not out of greed, but because they were invited to do so by your predecessors, wearied to death by internal conflict, while the Germans, whom they had called upon for help, had imposed servitude on friend and foe alike.

The battles we have waged against the Cimbri and Teutoni, the efforts of our armies, and the results of our war with the Germans, are sufficiently well known. We have not occupied the banks of the Rhine to safeguard Italy, but simply so that a second Ariovistus cannot rule the Gauls. Do you think you are dearer to Civilis and his Batavians and those across the Rhine than your fathers and grandfathers were to theirs?

The Germans have always the same reason for crossing into Gaul, desire and greed and a longing for change, to leave behind their marshy wildernesses and possess this most fertile of soils and you yourselves. Freedom and false titles are their pretexts; but none aspire to enslave others and hold dominion themselves, without exploiting that same vocabulary.’

Book IV:LXXIV Cerialis extols peace and order

‘There were endless kings and wars throughout Gaul until you submitted to our authority. We, as victors, though ever the injured party, have exercised this sole right over you, that you fund the peace; for there is no quiet among nations without armies, no armies without pay, no pay without the tribute tax; everything else we share.

You often command our legions, it is you who rule these and other provinces; without distinction between us or exclusion. And though you are far away from Rome, you enjoy the blessings beneficent emperors bring, while savage ones oppress those nearest. You suffer barren years, excessive rainfall, and other natural ills, and so too the greed and extravagance of your masters: as long as there are human beings, vice will exist, but it is not forever and compensated for by better times. Or perhaps you think the rule of Tutor and Classicus will be milder, and the tribute levied to guard against the Germans and Britons will be lower?

For should the Romans be driven out, the gods forbid, what will follow but conflict between all nations? Eight hundred years of order and success have built this edifice which cannot be destroyed without the ruin of its destroyers, and you run the greatest risk, you have gold and riches, the foremost causes of war. So love and cherish peace and Rome, where victor and vanquished alike have equal rights: and be warned by precedent, by fortune’s ills and blessings, not to prefer ruin and defiance to security and obedience.’

 With these words, Cerialis calmed and encouraged those who had feared worse.

Book IV:LXXV The Romans prepare for battle

The Treviri were in fact already under the control of the victorious army, when Civilis and Classicus sent letters to Cerialis expressing the following sentiments: ‘Vespasian, whatever report may hide, is no longer living, Rome and Italy are consumed by internal conflict. Mucianus and Domitian are empty names and without substance: if you Cerialis desire empire over the Gauls, we for our part are content with the limits of our states; if you prefer battle, we do not refuse you that either.’

To this message from Civilis and Classicus, Cerialis made no reply: sending the letter and he who had brought it to Domitian.

The enemy now gathered its divided forces from every quarter. Many blamed Cerialis for allowing this concentration, when he might have intercepted it in detail. The Roman troops, fortified their camp, which they had rashly occupied before undefended, with a ditch and rampart.

Book IV:LXXVI The Germans debate strategy

Among the Germans there was a clash of diverse sentiments. Civilis urged them to await the arrival of the tribes living beyond the Rhine, who would so terrify the Roman people that the latter’s power would fragment and collapse. ‘As for the Gauls,’ he said, ‘what are they but a prize for the victors? And even now their true strength, the Belgians, are openly with us, or wish us well.’

Tutor claimed that delay improved the Roman’s situation, since their forces were gathering from all quarters. ‘A legion has been transported from Britain,’ he said, ‘others are summoned from Spain, or arriving from Italy: not sudden levies, but veterans expert in warfare. The Germans, in whom we place our hopes, are unruly, disobedient, always acting on impulse; and as for money and gifts, the only things that will sway them, the Romans possess more, and there is none so keen on fighting that he does not prefer peace to risk for the same reward.

But if we attack immediately, Cerialis has no troops but the remains of the German legions, and these are tied to the Gallic states by treaty. The fact that they unexpectedly routed Valentinus’ undisciplined force only feeds their rashness, and that of their leaders. They will chance their arm again, but will fall not into the hands of inexperience youths, more concerned with words and speeches than steel and weapons, but into those of a Civilis and a Classicus.

When they see them, their spirits will feel new anxiety, recalling their flight, famine, and the many times they have been captured, with their survival uncertain. Nor are the Treviri and the Lingones filled with affection for them: they will take up arms again as soon as their fear has subsided.’

 Classicus resolved their differing opinions by supporting Tutor’s view, on which they at once acted.

Book IV:LXXVII The battle by the Moselle

The central position was granted to the Ubii and the Lingones; the Batavian cohorts formed the right wing, the Bructeri and Tencteri the left. They suddenly charged forward, some from the hills, some between the Moselle and the road, so unexpectedly that Cerialis was still in bed in his room (not having spent the night in camp) when he heard the simultaneous news of the fight and his troops’ defeat. He was still berating the messengers for their state of panic, when the extent of the disaster became clear. Breaking into the legions’ camp, the enemy had routed the cavalry and gained the centre of the bridge over the Moselle connecting the far bank to the colony.

Cerialis, calm amidst the crisis, halting those fleeing with his own hands, resolutely exposing his unprotected body to enemy fire, with extreme temerity and by good luck, recovered the bridge, assisted by the bravest of his men who ran to join him, and held it with a chosen few. Later, withdrawing to the camp, he saw groups of stragglers, from the legions captured at Neuss and Bonn, with only a few soldiers rallying to the standards, and the eagles virtually surrounded by the enemy.

Incensed, he cried in anger: ‘It is no Flaccus or Vocula you are deserting now: here is no treachery; I only need plead forgiveness for thinking, rashly, that you recall your oath to Rome in forgetting your pledge to Gaul. They will number me with the likes of Herennius and Numisius, all your leaders dying at the hands of their soldiers or the enemy.

Go tell Vespasian, or those nearer, Civilis and Classicus, that you deserted your general in the field: legions will follow who will not let me die unavenged or you unpunished!’

Book IV:LXXVIII Roman victory

His words rang true, and the same reproaches were heaped on them by the tribunes and prefects. The troops were drawn up in cohorts and units, since they could not form extended line, the enemy being everywhere, and as battle was waged within the ramparts they were hindered by tents and baggage. Tutor, Classicus and Civilis, from their separate positions, urged their men to fight: the Gauls for freedom, the Batavians for glory, and the Germans for the spoils.

All favoured the enemy, until the Twenty-first legion, with more space than the rest, gathered themselves, resisted the attack, and threw it back. Not without divine aid helping the Romans, the victorious enemy, in a sudden change of heart, took to flight. They themselves claimed they were terrified at the sight of cohorts, dislodged by their first attack, reforming on the hilltops, thinking fresh reinforcements had arrived.

But in reality the seeming victors were thwarted by a sordid struggle that began over the spoils, such that they forgot the enemy. Thus Cerialis, who had almost ruined things with his carelessness, restored it by his show of resolution; and following through his success, on the same day he captured and destroyed the enemy camp.

Book IV:LXXIX Cologne resists but the Romans suffer reverses

His men were given little time to rest. The citizens of Cologne asked for help, offering to surrender Civilis’ wife and sister, and Classicus’ daughter, left as hostages to secure the alliance. And in the interim they had killed the Germans among them, fuelling fear and justifying their call for aid before the enemy regained strength and armed again in the expectation of revenge.

Indeed, Civilis had headed for Cologne, still formidable, since his finest cohort was still untouched, being formed of Chauci and Frisii stationed at Zulpich (Tolbiacum) on the borders of the Cologne region; however his approach was thwarted by the dire news that this cohort had been eliminated through a tactic devised by the citizens of Cologne. They had dulled the men’s wits with a heavy meal and a free flow of wine, then locked the doors and set fire to the building, destroying those inside, while Cerialis was marching hurriedly towards them.

Civilis was troubled by further anxiety, lest the Fourteenth legion, supported by the fleet from Britain, might attack the Batavians on the coast, but Fabius Priscus led the legion inland against the Nervii and Tungri instead, while the fleet was attacked by the Canninefates, and most of the vessels sunk or captured.

The same Canninefates also routed a large force of the Nervii, who had spontaneously risen to fight for the Romans, while Classicus engaged in successful fight with the cavalry Cerialis had sent to Neuss. These defeats, though limited, were enough to tarnish the recent Roman victory.

Book IV:LXXX Events involving Mucianus and Antonius Primus

At this time, Mucianus ordered that Vitellius’s son be put to death, maintaining that discord would continue unless he eliminated the seeds of war. Nor would he allow Antonius Primus to be admitted to Domitian’s retinue, nervous of his popularity among the soldiers, and of the pride of a man intolerant of equals let alone superiors.

Leaving to join Vespasian, he was received not as he had hoped, but without animosity on the emperor’s part. Vespasian was torn between Antonius’ merits, the war having undoubtedly been brought to an end under his leadership, and the aspersions in Mucianus’ letters: while others attacked the man as dangerous, swollen with self-conceit, charging him with crimes in his former life.

Nor did Antonius fail to arouse hostility through his arrogance, and excessive reminders of his merit. He criticised Caecina for being taken captive and capitulating, others for cowardice. Hence he was gradually seen as being of less worth and weight, though for the sake of appearances Vespasian remained friendly.

Book IV:LXXXI Vespasian appears to perform miracles

During Vespasian’s months of waiting at Alexandria for the season of steady summer winds and calm seas, many strange events occurred showing the heavens’ favour towards him, and the support of the gods.

One of the populace of Alexandria, known to be losing his sight, following a prophecy of the god Serapis whom that superstitious nation worship before all others, clasped Vespasian’s knees and begged him, groaning, to remedy his blindness. He prayed the emperor might deign to moisten his eyes and cheeks with spit. Another whose hand was paralysed, at the promptings of the same divinity, beseeched Caesar to set his foot on it and massage it.

At first Vespasian, laughingly treated them with scorn; when they persisted, on the one hand he feared the discredit that might arise from failure, on the other he was inspired, by their appeals and the encouragement of his courtiers, to anticipate success. In the end, he ordered the physicians to advise on whether such blindness or debility could be cured by human aid.

The doctors suggested opposing treatments: in the first case the power of seeing had not been destroyed, and would return if the impediments to it were removed; in the second the wrist was out of joint, but could be reset with the application of salutary pressure. Such, they said, might be the gods’ desire, and the emperor chosen for this divine ministration; and then the glory would be Caesar’s if a remedy was achieved, while failure would merely bring down ridicule on the wretched suppliants.

So Vespasian, with a smile on his face, amid an excited crowd of bystanders, did as suggested, believing his good fortune capable of anything, and nothing now impossible. The hand was immediately restored to use, and daylight flooded the blind. Both events are still recalled by those present, even now when there is no reward for lying.

Book IV:LXXXII Vespasian visits the temple of Serapis

This gave Vespasian a deeper desire to visit the sacred presence, and consult the god as to imperial matters: he ordered everyone cleared from the temple. After entering, while he was intent on contemplation, he saw behind him one of the Egyptian nobles, Basilides by name, who as he thought was detained by illness at a location many days distant from Alexandria. He questioned the priests as to whether Basilides had been seen in the temple that day, and passers-by as to whether he had been seen in the city. In the end, after sending a detachment of cavalry, he discovered that, at that moment of his seeing him, Basilides had been eighty miles away: thus the name Basilides was to be understood as representing supernatural vision and oracular power.

Book IV:LXXXIII The origins of the god Serapis

The origins of this deity have not yet been discussed by our authors: the Egyptian priests recall them thus. At the time when King Ptolemy (Soter, 306-283BC), the first Macedonian to found an Egyptian dynasty, was gifting the new city of Alexandria its defensive walls, temples and religious rites, the apparition of a youth of unusual beauty and more than human stature appeared to him, in his sleep, which advised him to send his most faithful friends to Pontus in order to bring back the youth’s statue. This would be a blessing for the kingdom, and the city that received the image would become great and famous. At that very moment the apparition of the youth was carried to the heavens in a blaze of fire.

Ptolemy, moved by this miraculous omen, revealed his nocturnal vision to the Egyptian priests whose practice it was to interpret such things. As they proved ignorant of Pontus and like foreign parts, he questioned Timotheus, an Athenian of the clan of the Eumolpidae (priests of Eleusis) whom he had summoned from Eleusis to perform the rites, as to this religion, and this god. Timotheus, on questioning travellers to Pontus, learned there was a city there, Sinope (Sinop), and not far from it a temple, long famed among the natives as that of Jupiter Dis: since there is also a female figure there, beside the god, whom most call Proserpina.

Yet Ptolemy, though prone to superstitious fears as is the way with kings, feeling secure once more, and more keen on pleasure than religion, continually neglected the matter and turned his mind to other things, until the same apparition, now more dreadful and insistent, threatened the king himself and his kingdom with ruin unless the command was executed.

Then Ptolemy ordered that ambassadors and gifts be sent to King Scydrothemis (he being the ruler of the people of Sinope at that time) and that before sailing the ambassadors should visit Pythian Apollo. The seas were favourable, the oracle’s answer unambiguous: they were to go and return with his father’s statue, leaving that of his sister (Diana Proserpina) behind.

Book IV:LXXXIV The transfer of the god’s statue to Alexandria

On reaching Sinope, the ambassadors delivered their king’s gifts, messages and requests to Scydrothemis. He was torn between fear of the god coupled with the threats and opposition of his people, and the recurring temptation of the ambassadors’ gifts and promises. Three years passed thus, with Ptolemy no less eager or ready with his requests. He sent more imposing ambassadors, a larger fleet, and more gold.

At length, a menacing vision appeared to Scydrothemis, warning him to thwart the god’s purpose no longer. While he still hesitated, they were beset by various disasters and diseases, the god’s anger being evident and weighing more heavily day by day. He summoned an assembly, and spoke of the god’s command, the visions granted to himself and Ptolemy, and their growing misfortunes. But the people opposed their king: resistant towards Egypt and afraid for themselves, they surrounded the god’s temple.

Now the story told becomes stranger, for the god himself embarked of his own accord on a ship lying onshore, and wonderful to relate crossed the high seas to Alexandria in two days. A temple, fit for that great city, was erected on the site called Rhacotis, where was an ancient shrine dedicated to Serapis and Isis. Such is the most celebrated account of the god’s origins and arrival.

Yet I am not unaware that some say the god was brought from Seleucia in Syria, in the reign of Ptolemy III (Euergetes, 247-222BC); while others claim that same Ptolemy imported him from the site of Memphis, once the famous capitol of ancient Egypt. Many consider the god to be Aesculapius himself, because he heals the sick; some think him Osiris the most ancient god of those peoples; a greater number see him as Jupiter, lord of all things; but the majority, from his statue’s attributes or their own conjecture, consider him to be Dis Pater, Father Dis.

Book IV:LXXXV The capture of Valentinus

Now, before Domitian and Mucianus reached the Alps, they received news of the successful action among the Treviri. The most outstanding proof of their victory was the capture of the enemy leader, Valentinus, who, never downcast in spirits, revealed by his gaze the same courage he had always shown. He was granted a hearing, merely so that his character might be ascertained, and was then condemned. At his execution, he was taunted with the defeat of his native country, to which he replied that it consoled him for his own death.

Mucianus now advanced the proposal, long concealed but as if it had just occurred to him, that since, thanks to the gods’ benignity, the enemy’s strength was broken and the war almost over, it would be scarcely fitting for Domitian to reap others’ glory. If the situation of the empire or the security of Gaul were again at risk, then it would be right for a Caesar to be at the front, but he should assign the Canninefates and Batavi to lesser generals, while displaying his power and success as commander-in-chief from close quarters at Lyon, free of minor dangers, but ready for more serious ones.

Book IV:LXXXVI Domitian dissimulates

Mucianus’ cunning was detected, but Domitian’s show of obedience required it go unnoticed: thus they reached Lyon. They say that Domitian sent secret messages to Cerialis from there, testing Cerealis’ loyalty by asking whether he would relinquish command of his forces to him should he arrive in person. Whether he was considering waging war against his father, or to gain troops and resources to oppose his brother, is unknown: since Cerialis wisely temporizing, evaded the issue, as due to the empty vanity of youth.

Domitian, realizing that his lack of years was a matter of scorn to his elders, neglected all imperial duties, including those he had previously exercised, even the most insignificant, and under the guise of simplicity and humility, with profound dissimulation, he pretended a devotion to literature and a love of poetry to conceal his true nature, and avoid rivalry with his brother, whose milder and contrasting character he interpreted otherwise.

End of the Histories Book IV:LXVI-LXXXVI