Remember Arminius, the leader of the Cherusci tribe of Germans?
The complete bad-ass who took down Quinctilius Varus at the Varian Disaster aka the Clades Variana aka The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest ?
Well around 14 he’s having some issues with his father-in-law, Segestes.
He was always suggesting things.
Every night he was all like “what about Chinese for dinner? Indian? Pizza? Burgers? Thai? Italian? Japanese? I know, let’s just have leftovers.”
Remember Segestes had once tried to betray Arminius to Varus, but Varus ignored him?
BIG MISTAKE BIG HUGE
But he ignored him because Segestes was all like “maybe we should replace Arminius with Bob? Or Bill? How about John? Barry? Stan?”
Apparently some of their issues stem from the fact that Thusnelda, Arminius’ wife, Segestes’ daughter, was betrothed to someone else, before Arminius just hit her over the head, picked her up and carried her off to his tent, Virginia-style.
It is likely that Arminius had taken advantage of Roman preoccupation with the mutiny to make some attempt to oust Segestes and consolidate his own position, but things had gone badly for him and Segestes had got the upper hand, even succeeding in recovering Thusnelda.
Germanicus saw a chance of destroying Arminius and breaking the German resistance with a single blow.
He therefore planned an ambitious campaign in the expectation of worthwhile support from Segestes.
His plan is divide and conquer the three main troublesome tribes: the Chatti, the Bructeri and the Cherusci.
The Chatti were first.
These were the most annoying tribe because they just would NOT shut up.
It only seems like yesterday that we were talking about Drusus, brother of Tibbo, attacking them.
But that was a year ago for us and 26 years earlier for Rome.
Anyway, Germanicus personally leads 8 legions and 15,000 auxiliaries across the Rhine.
So 45,000 – 50,000 troops.
They split into two forces, with Germs taking the upper Rhine and Caecina – who I’m calling “Cha-Ching-Ga” – taking the lower.
Germs re-built a fort that Tibbo himself had once built, and then took advantage of the dry weather and rushed towards the Chatti.
Smartly, he left a guy behind to fix up the roads and bridges in case it rained before Germs could get back.
The Chatti were totally taken by surprise, like Heather on her wedding night.
And the Romans were able to do what they loved best – killing lots of old men, women and children.
The young men fled across the Eder river.
They taunted the Romans for while, who shot arrows at them.
The Chatti men were like “wow that escalated quickly.”
Romans: WE KILLED YOUR FAMILIES.
Chatti: Oh right. We missed that.
So the Chatti tried to cut a peace deal with Germs.
He said “sure, I love peace” – and then vastatio’d their homeland.
Some of them joined him – because who doesn’t want to join forces with the guy who just murdered your entire family and burned down your house?
Others ran to the hills.
Germs returned across the Rhine.
Meanwhile Caecina, patrolling the land between the Ruhr and the Lippe, had discouraged the Cherusci from coming to the aid of the Chatti and had also defeated the Marsi in battle.
The Marsi were massacred during a festival near a temple dedicated to Tamfana.
According to Tacitus, an area of 50 Roman miles was laid to waste with fire and sword: “No sex, no age found pity.”
But by now Arminius had regained control of the Cherusci.
And now Segestes is under attack from his own people.
He sends out envoys to the Romans begging for help, and one of them is lead by his son, Segimundus, aka Sigmund.
Poor Sigmund had a bad rap with the Romans.
At the time of the Cheruscan uprising in 9 he had been a priest at the altar of Augustus in the capital of the Ubii, but he had torn off his regalia and joined Arminius.
He was a big fan of Cicero.
Germs was prepared to give him a second chance, and sent him back with some troops and they rescued Segestes.
Who came back and was granted land in Gaul for his loyalty to Rome.
His daughter was taken to Ravenna where she gave birth to a son.
And then Germanicus was declared Imperator by the troops, apparently with Tibbo’s blessing.
Which is pretty huge if you recall that only a couple of episodes ago we were talking about how Tibbo didn’t really trust Germs.
Awww happy ending.
Arminius was pretty fucking unhappy about his wife and son being raised by his mortal enemies.
Segestes might be happy to live in conquered territory while his son performed the functions of priest to a mortal man; for Arminius the Germans could never live down the disgrace that the fasces had been paraded between the Rhine and the Elbe.
His position was that Augustus and Tiberius had achieved nothing and gone back to Rome.
There was therefore no reason to fear the inexperienced Germanicus and his army of mutineers.
Tacitus records Arminius’ great speech:
“Noble the father,” he would say, “mighty the general,
brave the army which, with such strength, has carried off one weak
woman. Before me, three legions, three commanders have fallen. Not
by treachery, not against pregnant women, but openly against armed
men do I wage war. There are still to be seen in the groves of Germany
the Roman standards which I hung up to our country’s gods. Let Segestes
dwell on the conquered bank; let him restore to his son his priestly
office; one thing there is which Germans will never thoroughly excuse,
their having seen between the Elbe and the Rhine the Roman rods, axes,
and toga. Other nations in their ignorance of Roman rule, have no
experience of punishments, know nothing of tributes, and, as we have
shaken them off, as the great Augustus, ranked among deities, and
his chosen heir Tiberius, departed from us, baffled, let us not quail
before an inexperienced stripling, before a mutinous army. If you
prefer your fatherland, your ancestors, your ancient life to tyrants
and to new colonies, follow as your leader Arminius to glory and to
freedom rather than Segestes to ignominious servitude.”
So he rallied the Cherusci and other tribes joined him.
He even got the support of his uncle Inguiomerus – aka Inglorious Bastard – who had previously been a respected friend of the Romans
So Germanicus had a situation on his hands.
When he gets wind of what’s going on, he immediately sets off to prevent the tribes from joining up.
He does a pincer movement against the Bructeri.
Caecina was sent with his four legions along the southern borders of the Bructeri.
Meanwhile Albinovanus Pedo set out with the cavalry from the land of the Frisii.
What a name. Latin for “Untrustworthy White Child Lover”.
Or just “Priest”.
And Germs took his four legions on BOATS and sailed from the North Sea up the Ems River to take them from the north.
The Bructeri attempted a scorched earth policy, but were dispersed by L. Stertinius, the ancestor of Big Stetty, United States Secretary of State under Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman.
He had the good fortune to discover among his booty one of the three standards lost by Varus, that of the twenty-first legion.
All the land between the Ems and the Lippe was ravaged, but the Bructeri seem to have slipped away further east without serious loss.
At one point, Germanicus found himself close to Teutoburg Forest, and he was determined to bury the dead with full rites.
They moved carefully and eventually came upon Varus’ camp, with its litter of bones and broken weapons, and in the neighbouring groves the altars of the Germans.
Tacitus: In the centre of the field were the whitening bones of men, as they had fled, or stood their ground, strewn everywhere or piled in heaps. Near, lay fragments of weapons and limbs of horses, and also human heads, prominently nailed to trunks of trees. In the adjacent groves were the barbarous altars, on which they had immolated tribunes and first-rank centurions.
Among Germanicus’ troops were some survivors of the disaster, who were able to point out where the legionary commanders had fallen, where the eagles had been lost, where Varus had stabbed himself in his despair.
Appropriate ceremonies were performed for the dead, though there was no way of distinguishing Roman from German bones, and Germanicus laid the first sod on the burial mound.
When reports reached him, Tiberius did not approve, allegedly for the highly technical reason that Germanicus, as an augur, should not on religious grounds have allowed himself to come into contact with the remains of the dead.
He might have also been worried that reminding the troops of the defeat would destroy their morale.
Tacitus: And so the Roman army now on the spot, six years after the disaster, in grief and anger, began to bury the bones of the three legions, not a soldier knowing whether he was interring the relics of a relative or a stranger, but looking on all as kinsfolk and of their own blood, while their wrath rose higher than ever against the foe. In raising the barrow Caesar laid the first sod, rendering thus a most welcome honour to the dead, and sharing also in the sorrow of those present. This Tiberius did not approve, either interpreting unfavourably every act of Germanicus, or because he thought that the spectacle of the slain and unburied made the army slow to fight and more afraid of the enemy, and that a general invested with the augurate and its very ancient ceremonies ought not to have polluted himself with funeral rites.
But the opposite happened.
They were furious and wanted revenge against Arminius and the Cherusci.