Germs got a FULL triumph and a triumphal arch, which was erected the following year only 150 yards from the arch erected by Augustus to celebrate the return of the standards from Parthia.
This suggests Tibbo wanted people to think about the campaign as about retrieving a lost standard – not as an attempt to secure more territory.
And that Germanicus and Tibbo had the same kind of loyal and loving relationship as Tibbo had with Augustus.
With scrupulous politeness and lavish flattery, Germanicus had been recalled.
Germanicus pretended not to understand and stayed where he was.
He went from uneasy subordination to something approaching studied disobedience.
This can only have deepened Tiberius’ distrust
And he’s also helpless.
What can he do?
ORDER Germs to come back?
What if he refuses?
That could be a political disaster.
All he could do was try to persuade Germs to come back.
Lucky for him, fresh trouble broke out in Armenia in 16 and he had a pretext to get Germs away from his loyal troops in Germany and send him east.
So he issued Germs with new order.
Which Germs completely ignored.
He wasn’t ready to give up in Germany.
He saw the failures of the previous year as entirely the result of tactical and logistical problems, and here he can undoubtedly be given credit for learning from his mistakes of the previous year when he came to plan the campaign of 16.
He had realized the advantages that accrued to the Germans from the wooded and marshy terrain and the brevity of the summer and he understood that the chief hindrances to the Romans were the long marches they were called on to undertake and the danger caused by a cumbersome baggage train.
He therefore decided to make the fullest possible use of sea-transport, which would be at once quicker and less exhausting and would prevent casualties en route.
If he’d had a bigger fleet the previous year, it would have prevented the disasters to both Caecina’s and Vitellius’ forces.
So he spent the winter building ships to special designs for safety and seaworthiness.
When the fleet was ready, and was gathering at the mouth of the Rhine, Germs sent a force to make a raid on the Chatti.
Because they STILL won’t shut the fuck up.
But the fact they have to hit them again just a year after the last time, shows just how impermanent the results of their efforts were with the German tribes.
Germanicus himself took six legions to the relief of the Roman fort on the Lippe, which was being besieged.
BTW – do you know what the most famous dish served in Lippe is?
potatoes, flour and raisins.
The enemy ran away at the news of his approach, but not before they had destroyed the burial mound of the victims of the clades Variana and an altar once erected by Drusus in the neighbourhood.
Germanicus restored the altar but, probably because of Tiberius’ response to its erection, did not rebuild the burial mound.
Meanwhile the troops he sent to take on the Chatti didn’t achieve much either.
But they did capture two additions to Rome’s collection of royal German females: the wife and daughter of Arpus, leader of the Chatti.
So Germs then throws all of his legions on to the ships and they set sail, into the North Sea, and back to the mouth of the Ems.
He eventually sails down to the Weser (Vessa) river and disembarks his men onto the West Bank.
On the east bank the Cherusci under Arminius were drawn up.
Then a very strange thing happens.
Arminius requested permission from Germanicus to talk to his brother Flavus, who had spent long years in the service of Rome and had lost an eye in one of the German campaigns of Tiberius.
They start calling each other names across the river.
Tacitus: 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.
Arminius hurling insults in the Latin he remembered from his years in the Roman army.
Stertinius was forced to restrain Flavus who was calling for his arms and horse
Even though he’s on the other side of the river!
The next day the Cherusci lined up for battle but Germs was being cautious.
He didn’t want to attempt a river crossing without bridges.
So he sent his cavalry across to try to chase the Cherusci away from the banks.
Of course the Cherusci played their single move – feign running away to leave the cavalry into an ambush.
The Batavi, who were fighting with the Romans, who Tacitus calls the bravest of the tribes of the area, got caught in the ambush.
They were brave – but dumb.
The Roman cavalry managed to break them out, but not before their leader, Chariovalda, and many others, had been killed.
Here’s a useless piece of trivia.
The city of Jakarta in Indonesia used to be called Batavia when it was part of the Dutch East Indies.
And the people who live there today still call themselves Betawi.
Can one of our Indonesian listeners confirm that?
By the time Germs got across the river, he learned that Arminius had already picked his spot for the following day’s battle.
And that the allies of the Cheruschi were hiding in a grove waiting to attack the Romans in the night.
Germs then pulled out his Groucho Marx glasses and nose and fake moustache and went walking amongst his own troops to see what morale was like.
He found out that they were all completely loyal and loved him.
That’s how he reported it though.
Tacitus: At nightfall, leaving his tent of augury by a secret exit, unknown to the sentries, with one companion, his shoulders covered with a wild beast’s skin, he visited the camp streets, stood by the tents, and enjoyed the men’s talk about himself, as one extolled his noble rank, another, his handsome person, nearly all of them, his endurance, his gracious manner and the evenness of his temper, whether he was jesting or was serious, while they acknowledged that they ought to repay him with their gratitude in battle, and at the same time sacrifice to a glorious vengeance the perfidious violators of peace.
That night, when the Germans tried their sneak attack, they discovered the Romans were all awake and on guard, so they quietly turned around and tip-toed back to the forest.
Next morning Germanicus addressed his men and tried to show them how even the forests and swamps could be turned to their advantage.
He’d been reading his Art Of War.
Arminius on the other hand dismissed the Romans as the fastest runners in Varus’ army, who had mutinied two years before rather than fight and now travelled everywhere by sea to avoid the risk of battle.
So the next day they did battle.
We don’t know the details except
The Cherusci suffered heavy casualties, though Arminius and Inglorious Bastard both escaped.
Tacitus presents the victory as a massacre,
But the Cherusci were ready to fight again shortly afterwards suggests that he might be exaggerating a little bit.
The troops hailed Tiberius as imperator – not Germanicus.
No doubt Germanicus was belatedly trying to be tactful, but it seems that Tiberius refused to accept the salutation.
If he accepted it, he would be giving tacit approval for the campaign.
Remember that he summoned Germanicus home.
This entire campaign was without the approval of the princeps.
At first the Germans thought about retiring east of the Elbe, the river that runs close to the border of Germany and Poland.
But instead they got angry and attacked the Romans again.
They laid an ambush near a wall the Angrivarii tribe – they were REALLY angry – had built to keep the Cherusci out.
But Germs got wind of this plan too, he obviously had terrific scouts or spies.
And the subsequent battle was another disaster for the Germans.
This time they found themselves the marshes at their rear, so they couldn’t retreat.
And the Roman line of retreat was barred by the river.
A pitched battle in a confined space against Romans wasn’t good for the Germans.
And Germs gave orders that there were to be no prisoners taken.
KILL THEM. KILL THEM ALL.
Arminius, however, survives.
But he’s no longer a threat to the Romans.
In the monument to Mars, Jupiter and Augustus that Germs set up to celebrate the victory he again displayed great tact towards the offended princeps.
His own name was not mentioned at all; the inscription recorded only that the peoples dwelling between the Rhine and the Elbe had been conquered by the army of Tiberius Caesar.
Suggesting the campaign had official blessing – which of course it didn’t.
Germs didn’t want to get caught out by the weather again, so he sent his men into winter quarters and he returned most of his legions back to the Rhine on the ships.
Then, despite all Germanicus’ preparations, disaster struck.
The fleet was caught in a storm and many ships were lost.
Germanicus’ own ship was driven ashore in the territory of the Chauci.
At first in his despair he thought that the entire fleet was lost, but when the storm abated a few ships began to limp in.
More men were recovered up and down the coast: some who had fallen into enemy hands were ransomed and returned by the Angrivarii, some were sent back from as far away as Britain.
His reaction to the disaster was brilliant.
To prevent it from destroying the morale of his army and raising that of the Germans, he immediately sent out Silius against the Chatti, while he himself marched against the Marsi, who still had in their possession, as he had recently learned, another of the eagles lost by Varus.
Tacitus: Immediately troops were despatched to draw the enemy from his position by appearing in his front, others, to hem in his rear and open the ground. Fortune favoured both. So Germanicus, with increased energy, advanced into the country, laying it waste, and utterly ruining a foe who dared not encounter him, or who was instantly defeated wherever he resisted, and, as we learnt from prisoners, was never more panic-stricken. The Romans, they declared, were invincible, rising superior to all calamities; for having thrown away a fleet, having lost their arms, after strewing the shores with the carcases of horses and of men, they had rushed to the attack with the same courage, with equal spirit, and, seemingly, with augmented numbers.
The mounting of these expeditions confirms that Germanicus must have returned from the Weser well before the end of summer and perhaps suggests that the losses caused by the storm were by no means as great as had at first been feared.
Their material results were insignificant, but their psychological effects were as great as could be desired.
Not only was the eagle recovered, but, more important, the Germans were reduced to despair by this proof of Roman tenacity and resilience.
Germanicus had some cause to feel cheerful when he led the men into winter quarters.
He was convinced that if he were granted one more year he could bring the war to a successful conclusion, but repeated letters from Tiberius, who was no doubt growing increasingly impatient, summoned him home to his triumph.
And Tiberius probably wasn’t happy with the overall lack of strategy in the campaigns.
He’s learned from bitter experience, his own, his brother’s, and Augustus’s, that trying to expand the borders in to German, without a shit ton of political and military consolidation, was pointless.
Germs had achieved nothing.
He’d lost men.
All he could claim was to have recovered some of the eagles lost by Varus.
Tibbo was tactful, thanked Germs for his efforts to restore Rome’s honour, but then drew a line under Germany.
“Let them cut their own throats”, he said.
since Germanicus had proved incapable of dealing with Arminius and no other general was on hand who was likely to do better, the only possible course was to withdraw and give Arminius rope to hang himself.
Germanicus still begged for one more year to finish what he had begun.
But Tiberius skilfully played on his pride and his affection for Drusus.
He offered Germs a second consulship and said that if further fighting in Germany proved necessary, Germanicus should leave his brother the chance to acquire some military glory.
This time Germanicus resisted no longer and returned to Rome.
No doubt he too wanted to avoid the open breach that might result from a refusal to obey; certainly his compliance proves yet again his innocence of all disloyal ambition.
He did not celebrate his triumph until 26 May, 17, when Tiberius distributed three hundred sesterces per man to the plebs in Germ’s name.
Suetonius claims that Tiberius dismissed Germanicus’ glorious deeds as futile and his splendid victories as ruinous to the state.
He’s probably right.
Germanicus did not conquer Germany, any more than Drusus or Tiberius had before him, nor is there any reason to suppose that his methods would have brought success in one more summer or indeed over a longer period.
Conquest, as Tiberius had learned, involved more than annual victories over an enemy who returned to the fray refreshed after the close season.
To hold down Germany would have called for an outlay in men and money greater than Rome could afford.
From this viewpoint Germanicus’ expeditions, like all the others that had ravaged Germany under Augustus, were indeed futile, and there is no doubt that they had brought heavy losses both of men and money.
But he was in a tricky situation.
Germanicus didn’t start the war with the Germans.
Augustus had started it.
And it was Augustus who had appointed Germanicus to lead the war over the Rhine and to press on to the Elbe.
Tiberius had to choose between being loyal to Augustus’ wishes on one hand – and his fears about Germ’s loyalty on the other hand.
And his justifiable concerns about the realistic prospects of winning the war.
But to pull Germanicus back from Germany, before a full victory, and then replacing him with someone else, would look bad.
So he spun it as “yep, we avenged Varus and got our standards back, that’s enough, let’s call it a day.”
Makes me think of the U.S. in Vietnam or Afghanistan or Iraq.
Fighting a losing battle but if they pull out, it’s a PR nightmare.